COVID-19’s Impact on the Commercial Litigation Community and the Shift Toward Remote Events

On January 8, 2020, U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued its first statement naming a novel Coronavirus.

By March 20, 2020, the governors of both California and New York had begun issuing guidance on restrictions for non-essential businesses and large gatherings. To grapple with the complexities of policy decisions, health risks, and economic impact amid the pandemic, New York State hired consulting giant McKinsey to support planning and recovery efforts. By the end of March, the U.S. Supreme Court closed to tourists, remaining open for official business. Soon, SCOTUS would hold its first telephonic oral arguments, and the first U.S. jury selected by Zoom would be seated for the nation’s first remote summary jury trial in Texas. By May, tech giants including Facebook and Twitter had issued announcements that their workforces could be working remote for five to ten years, or even “indefinitely.”

IMS Consulting & Expert Services conducted a flash survey earlier this year to assess how COVID-19 was impacting the commercial litigation community, ultimately receiving more than 400 responses from Big Law litigators, boutique attorneys, and experts across the U.S. Our findings indicated that 95% of attorneys reported they had been displaced at some point from their typical office locations. We also noted in our findings that top law firms have been proactively working to deliver focused guidance to clients on pandemic-related issues. In fact, 70% of the attorneys from AmLaw 250 firms reported that their firms have established new COVID-19 practice groups, indicating an industrywide movement throughout Big Law to help clients prepare for new complexities amid the pandemic.

Meanwhile, most respondents reported experiencing a range of responses from courts, with restrictions and guidelines varying significantly across venues and judges. Among respondents to our survey, 69% of attorneys reported having had at least one hearing, deposition, or other court event shifted onto a virtual platform due to COVID-19.

As litigators work diligently to help clients prepare and address new complexities across industries and practice areas impacted by the pandemic, IMS has been actively connecting clients to the subject matter expertise needed for various types of matters and to trial consultants who can help navigate the nuances of remote hearings and events.

IMS Senior Trial Presentation Advisor Jeff Dahm notes that significant work has been underway to ensure clients are prepared for remote hearings, and that practice and careful preparation are key for successful remote events. “We’ve even created virtual courtroom scenarios in order to have everybody log in. Especially now, and especially in this ever-changing industry, your trial consultants and trial presentation advisors have their pulse on what’s possible and what’s needed to help you prepare.”

Originally published in The Connecticut Law Tribune.

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