The Qatar International Centre for Conciliation and Arbitration (Qicca) at Qatar Chamber held a webinar titled ‘Dos and Don’ts for Online Hearings’.
Held in co-operation with the Qatar International Court and Dispute Resolution Centre (Qicrdc) and McNair Chambers, the webinar was presided over by Qicrdc president Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd.
The webinar touched on key developments in the practice and procedures on the part of Qicrdc and Qicca, and was attended by a number of legal consultants and lawyers.
Lord Thomas said the webinar explored, among others, ways in which all those involved in contributing to the success of an online hearing can be best placed to do so. He said courts must be in a position to hold hearings online.
“Of course, not only must the courts be in a position to do so, but the participants themselves, whether they be witnesses, lawyers, or judges, must be equipped with the knowledge, capability, and access to the required technology, in order to effectively participate,” he said.
Qicca general counsel Dr Minas Khatchadourian said the pandemic has required arbitration institutions, parties, counsel, and arbitrators to adapt to the new ways of conducting proceedings virtually.
He said such proceedings should continuously maintain the balance between the requirements of streamlined proceedings and the respect of due process between the parties.
Professor Khawar Qureshi, manager of McNair Chambers Qatar, said Covid-19 has accelerated the pace of change, compelling many involved in litigation and arbitration to adapt to online platforms. “Even if the technology works seamlessly, online hearings have some disadvantages, not least requiring greater concentration from the court or tribunal, as well as the absence of the interpersonal dynamic which exists in a face-to-face hearing.
“Nevertheless, it is inevitable that the ‘new normal’ will entail greater use of such systems for hearings to some extent. In addition to courts and arbitral institutions, parties and their advocates need to ensure that they adopt best practices,” he added.
Chris Grout, Registrar at QICRDC, said online hearings have become a regular feature of litigation, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, “indicating that whilst they undoubtedly have their advantages, there do exist pitfalls for the unwary.”