Until Covid, I used regularly to fly around the country, and sometimes overseas, in order to appear in court, or arbitrations, or for dispute review board meetings, or mediations, or to speak at conferences. In the last few months, I have not left South Australia at all.
Remote hearings, appearing by audiovisual link, have proved to be more effective than might have been expected, and for hearings that are largely administrative – directions hearings and the like – remote appearances are probably here to stay. But where there is an argument to be had, they are not as effective as where counsel appears in person.
I am due to appear in the High Court shortly, on a special leave application. The court has written to the parties to say:
Once any relevant Covid-19 restrictions in force closer to the time for hearing are known, the Registry will advise whether practitioners have the option of appearing in a High Court courtroom in Sydney, Melbourne or Canberra; or whether the hearing will be conducted remotely.
Hopefully, we will be able to appear in person. It seems particularly daft to have to travel from South Australia to Melbourne in order to appear by video link before a court sitting in Canberra! Although my junior in the case is based in Melbourne, and so I suppose at least it would have the merit that my junior and I could be in the same room (although it turns out that two counsel in front of one camera does not work very well). And anyway, my instructing solicitors are in Sydney.
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