Welcome to another issue of the Discovery Update. This collection of articles covers technology and know-how related to working remotely. Whether you are working from your home office or at your law firm, I hope you continue to find our newsletter relevant and helpful.
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Jury Trials during COVID: A Will to Get it Done is Essential
By James Waldenberger
I recently tried one of the first jury trials of the COVID-19 era. Having done so, I’m happy to report that a jury trial may be readily accomplished if the court and counsel have one essential ingredient: the will to get it done.
There was no playbook for what a jury trial during a pandemic would look like. How would I conduct a trial through a mask or face shield? Would I be able to see, hear, and speak clearly? Would the jurors be able to hear me? Would a mask or shield affect my confidence? Should I drag my witnesses into court or put them on video?
Would anyone appear for jury selection in state court in Lycoming County? Fearing being unable to seat a jury, I proposed a panel of six, but my adversary would not agree to less than 10. Since I was committed to getting this case tried, I took what I could get. My fear was justified when only 29 people appeared for jury selection, which then required a second day that yielded an extra 36. Not a single person voiced a concern about COVID, perhaps welcoming the opportunity to fulfill their civic duty, or maybe just to get out of their homes. We successfully selected our jury of 10.
In the courtroom, lawyers and jurors were required to wear face shields. The judge and his staff wore masks. The witness stand was encased in plexiglass. Our 10 jurors were spread out in the jury box built for 14. There was an obligatory hand sanitizer pump at the entrance to the courtroom and bottles of it on the tables.
Legal Collaboration Technology: Opportunities and Challenges
By Jennifer Betts
It is no secret that the way lawyers practice law has, in many ways, dramatically changed during the coronavirus pandemic. One such change is the way in which lawyers collaborate and communicate. A critical element of the effective practice of law has always included collaboration and communication internally within law firms and externally with clients and courts. However, the pandemic, and the transition to remote work for most legal professionals, has presented new challenges and opportunities for re-envisioning how lawyers can and should collaborate and communicate. Advancements in technology provide solutions and some new quandaries in this space.
Collaboration and Communication Tool Adoption
Initial research during the pandemic suggests that internal legal departments are ahead of the curve in comparison to law firms in incorporating and embracing technology solutions to continue and enhance collaboration and communication. For example,Bloomberg Lawrecently released the results of a survey showing a marked increase in the use of law firm collaboration tools during the pandemic period (e.g., from March 2020 through present).