Online hearings hurt young lawyers, top judge says

Monday, January 31, 2022 3:01 PM

A veteran British judge has warned that virtual hearings are stunting the development of young lawyers.

The Chancellor of the High Court, Sir Julian Flux, warned that “the participation of young lawyers and barristers is limited to being a vignette with no image or sound on a Teams screen”.

The Chief Justice warned that the rise of remote hearings has seen QC take over proceedings, meaning juniors are increasingly left out of the process.

“As anyone who has been an advocate will say, it is only by doing your own advocacy and making your own mistakes that you learn your craft,” Sir Julian Flux said in a speech to the bar association of the chancellery.

Sir Julian Flux has also raised concerns that online trials undermine justice, as he argued for the importance of cross-examining witnesses in a “neutral venue”.

Nonetheless, Sir Julian Flux said virtual hearings are here to stay and will remain the “default” method for conducting short hearings.

The judge said a hybrid model could also prevail, whereby the judge, lawyers and critical witnesses appear in court, and others, such as clients or members of the press, log in remotely.

Sir Julian Flux added that although the past two years have been “two grueling years”, the pandemic has reaffirmed the importance of “health and well-being” and a reasonable work-life balance.

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