COVID-19 has “thrust adaptive changes upon the legal profession”and has prompted a “transition from the traditional way of practice”, observed Mr Teong Liang Yap, Chair of the Family Law and Children’s Rights Section LAWASIA and Managing Director of the Singapore family law firm TL Yap & Associates. On 30 July 2020 the World Congress on Family Law and Children’s Rights partnered with LAWASIA to present the webinar ‘Courts and COVID-19, Operating in a Pandemic & What we Learned’. The webinar was moderated by the Honourable Diana Bryant AO QC, Chair of the World Congress on Family Law & Children’s Rights Board and former Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia. The speakers comprised the Honourable William Alstergren QC, Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia; the Honourable Justice Debbie Ong, presiding Judge of the Family Justice Courts, Singapore; Ms Susan Acland-Hood, CEO of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service in the United Kingdom; Assistant Commissioner Lesa Gale PSM of the Australian Federal Police; and Mr Teong Liang Yap.
In this engaging and informative webinar, the speakers shared how their respective jurisdictions have responded to the global pandemic and the various challenges presented, and how they have continued operating in these unprecedented and ever-changing times. The comparison in the way courts around the world have adapted to the crisis in order to continue providing the public access to justice was a particularly fascinating aspect of the conversation. Many courts have introduced online hearings to enable social distancing. Mr Yap discussed that although the courts in Singapore have conducted conferences by telephone and video in the past, remote hearings are a new occurrence. The legal profession has consequently been required to rapidly equip itself to engage in electronic hearings and to interact with clients in the remote environment. Many courts, including the Australian family law courts, have established targeted court lists to address urgent matters involving parenting disputes or family violence in an environment of restricted movement.
Ms Acland-Hood aptly observed, “we have been sustaining the kind of pace of innovation and asking of our staff and judges what you would normally expect in a short crisis, but they have continued, and will continue, to perform”. COVID-19 has had substantial implications for legal systems across the globe, and is likely to continue shaping the administration of justice into the future.
We invite you to watch the webinar, available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=qFhumBhnd3s&feature=emb_title
Nicholes Family Lawyers’ Managing Partner, Sally Nicholes, is the Deputy Chair of the World Congress on Family Law & Children’s Rights board, and is actively engaged in ongoing discussions amongst the profession and across jurisdictions as to how the efficacy of the legal system can be improved to meet the needs of families and individuals in the current environment. We invite you to contact our office if you have any queries regarding family law matters or accessing the Court systems in light of COVID-19 restrictions.