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Covid-19 and its Impact on Business Litigation

F. Michael Ayaz

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way the world works in virtually every country. In the US alone, millions have lost their jobs. Even more devastating, tens of thousands have died from Coronavirus exposure, and state-level regulations intended for public safety seem to evolve constantly. The lockdown has affected every sector of modern life, including the business litigation world.

Both business analysts and legal professionals continue to speculate about the ramifications the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions will have when it comes to the commercial legal proceedings that take place every day across the country. There are several potential effects the COVID-19 lockdown could have on business litigation as it exists in the United States today.

Legal Costs May Diminish

Social distancing policies and closures across the country have affected government buildings as well as private businesses. Many courthouses are operating remotely or with limited in-office staff to limit personal contact and slow the spread of COVID-19. The location of a company’s headquarters and witness appearance arrangements typically impose legal costs on a company during conventional business litigation.

Now that many courthouses are closed for live appearances and transitioning to video conferencing for many proceedings, businesses will not need to budget for as many travel costs and reimbursements.

Writing Will Become More Valuable Than Speaking as a Legal Skill

With courthouses remaining closed to the public, many cases are hinging on affidavits and written submissions to the court. Many attorneys are adept in the courtroom setting and provide passionate spoken representation. Oration such as this is typically a highly sought trait among those looking for commercial litigation representation. Now that courts are moving to digital proceedings and minimizing face-to-face interaction, written submissions for commercial litigations are going to be far more impactful.

Legal Proceedings Will Unfold Digitally

Though COVID-19 is still somewhat of a mystery, we do know that it spreads easily across many vectors. The social distancing and mask policies in place across the country exist to slow the spread of the virus and minimize the impact on the country’s already strained healthcare system. As courts close to accommodate social distancing policies and to maintain public health and safety, business litigation is likely to start unfolding across digital channels more frequently.

Courts across the country are already arranging remote video proceedings that are entered directly into digital archives. Legal correspondence that typically occurred via personal delivery will now take place online over secure servers. Many telecommunication applications and devices have made video communication more accessible. Now, courts are taking advantage of this technology to minimize interpersonal interactions and slow the spread of the Coronavirus.

Adapting to these new technologies may be one of the hardest fought changes to unfold due to COVID-19 restrictions. Currently, most courts are skeptical of video testimony and evidence submitted digitally. Many court officials may have difficulties adapting to new public policies. Courts that have started experimenting with digital communication in active cases have, so far, reported mostly positive results.

Court Records Will Shift to Electronic Databases

With the boom in popularity of digital communication for commercial litigation proceedings, the legal systems throughout the country adopting these new measures are going to alter their recordkeeping policies accordingly. Modern courts still rely heavily on paperwork archives and physical evidence preservation. Thanks to modern data storage technology, courts are going to move to a digital archive system with comprehensive backup systems in place.

Another added potential benefit of this shift to electronic recordkeeping is that administrative proceedings are likely to proceed more rapidly than they did previously. This speed could potentially lead to new business creations and administrative proceedings happening more quickly while consuming fewer court resources over time.

Courts Will Begin Prioritizing Cases More Carefully

Court officials across the country are understandably concerned about the drain on legal resources the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed on the American public and are currently operating under heavy restrictions. This has pushed many courts across the country to start prioritizing the cases to which they devote resources. Cases deemed “frivolous” or cases that do not have to do with the Coronavirus pandemic and its effects will likely experience significant delays in their proceedings.

Approach Business Litigation With Greater Confidence During COVID-19

Ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic has managed to touch virtually every part of modern life, and it can be difficult to anticipate what your future commercial litigation proceedings will entail in the face of heavy public safety regulation. One of the best things you can do is work with a reliable and experienced commercial litigation attorney who has kept close track of COVID-19 policy changes at the state and federal levels. Their legal counsel can prove invaluable if you are heading for complex business litigation amidst the COVID-19 lockdown.

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