From preparing an E-Bundle to Conducting a Detailed Assessment Hearing successfully
The current times we are facing could never have been expected, the last 12 weeks has forced every aspect of the business world to move towards working in a new remote fashion. The courts have been affected as the lockdown in the United Kingdom has meant physical attendance in court is not possible or minimally restricted at best. The effects of Covid-19 continue to change daily and currently the courts are required to conduct virtual hearings via alternating visual platforms; The Courts are even successfully carrying out virtual detailed assessment hearings in order to keep the legal costs world moving.
This is something that arguably the courts were working towards in the future, from the introduction of the Electronic Bill in 2018, to the mandatory use of e-filing at the SCCO being introduced earlier this year. These are the first big steps the court has taken to embrace technology. Although no one could have ever imagined virtual detailed assessment hearings being introduced so quickly, the court had little choice as they could not continually vacate hearings to sometime in the future as this would cause a further backlog and delay for access to justice. Sometimes, we all need a little nudge and perhaps the pandemic has been the nudge the court needed to embrace modern change.
R Costings has already had the pleasure of being on one side of a virtual two day detailed assessment, (Utting v City College Norwich EQHC B20) and the overall opinion taken from all involved was that it was a successful, and a smooth process with many benefits; however this is only due to the preparation that took place before the assessment which inevitably is now more onerous on your administration teams and internal IT capabilities.
The Court has offered guidance on conducting both virtual detailed assessments and oral provisional assessments; this was used as a ‘bible’ to prepare for the hearing attended.
Firstly the most important thing to consider is the preparation of the electronic-bundle (e-bundle), it is extremely critical that this includes all documents you intend to rely upon within the hearing; no longer are you able to simply hand a document to the judge. Within the courts guidance they set out the order in which the e-bundle should be prepared. At R Costings we already have the capabilities to create the e-bundle appropriately and quickly.
It is imperative that the e-bundle is searchable, paginated and has hyperlinks within the bundle for ease of reference. The e-bundle must then be submitted using the online data room, once submitted, it is crucial that you then don’t change anything in the bundle. All party bundles should be identical, meaning you can simply direct the judge to the correct page of the pdf. document. We found this increased efficiency and increased the speed of finding the correct documents. It was also useful to have created an index page with hyperlinks so the Master could simply find the document he wanted with one click.
This bundle did not take us any longer that a normal bundle would have taken previously due to the technology we have in place but I would like to emphasise again the importance of the e-bundle for a successful hearing. Once you have the right technology and people in place to prepare the e-bundles the virtual hearings are much more accessible.
Another recommended important step before the hearing is to have a practice run with the opposition. We used Skype for Business as recommended by the court to conduct the hearing; as everyone knows there can always be technical problems. Having a practice run means you can remove any technical glitches and become familiar with the platform you are using if you have never used it before, again allowing for the hearing to run as smoothly as possible.
Following the above guidance allowed us to conduct the hearing without any interruptions with the virtual platform running as planned. The other positives we found were there was zero travel time with the hearing being in our offices, minimising costs and time, and the post hearing process was easier and more straightforward as there was no lengthy wait for Orders/Judgements.
We found this a pleasant process; the only drawbacks are on the technological side of things. We noted there were more breaks required for recording purposes and sometimes the sound quality could be erratic. Aside from this as commented above as long as you have the resources in staff, technology the introduction of virtual hearings should be an easy transition.
At R Costings we are specialised in conducting Detailed Assessments, from preparing the e-bundle to the hearing. Our experience allows us to remove the administration work from your busy team, and we can safely and securely transfer your client files to our offices utilising our free in-house courier service. Please contact Kate@rcostings.co.uk or Megan@rcostings.co.uk to find out more about how we can help you going forwards, or call us on 01480 463499.