Maxwell Chambers turns to virtual hearings amid Covid-19

Dispute resolution centre quick to roll out virtual and hybrid hearing services in the wake of pandemic

Maxwell Chambers CEO Katherine Yap says the biggest challenge amid the pandemic was offering virtual or hybrid hearings and getting legal practitioners to adopt them. Maxwell Chambers (above and left) is the world's first integrated alternative dispu
Maxwell Chambers is the world’s first integrated alternative dispute resolution complex and houses best-of-class hearing facilities.PHOTOS: MAXWELL CHAMBERS

London-based barrister Simon Milnes was counsel in the first video hearing conducted at Maxwell Chambers after Covid-19 struck Singapore.

"I was very impressed by how swiftly Maxwell Chambers implemented virtual hearing technology," said Mr Milnes of London-based Twenty Essex - which also has an office at Maxwell Chambers.

Within two weeks in March, Maxwell Chambers selected and tested out a full technical solution that enabled a smooth hearing, with participants joining from London, Sydney and Taipei, he said.

"Seven months since then, virtual hearings are the new normal across the industry, and I expect them to remain popular after the Covid-19 crisis is past," he said.

"No doubt there will still be real demand for world-class physical facilities to host all-physical or 'hybrid' hearings (where some participants are physically present and others join in via video link), but I think virtual hearings will stay firmly on the menu."

Maxwell Chambers, the world's first integrated alternative dispute resolution (ADR) complex, houses best-of-class hearing facilities as well as top international ADR institutions.

It has become a preferred hearing centre for parties, counsel, arbitrators and mediators.

The complex caters to a wide range of international and local users, and houses 34 entities, including the World Intellectual Property Organisation Arbitration and Mediation Centre - its first overseas office outside Geneva - and the International Chamber of Commerce's first regional office in Asia.

Maxwell Chambers' chief executive Katherine Yap said it has had its fair share of challenges in maintaining its relevance on the ADR scene due to Covid-19.

Maxwell Chambers CEO Katherine Yap says the biggest challenge amid the pandemic was offering virtual or hybrid hearings and getting legal practitioners to adopt them. Maxwell Chambers (above and left) is the world's first integrated alternative dispu
Maxwell Chambers has become a preferred hearing centre for parties, counsel, arbitrators and mediators.
PHOTO: MAXWELL CHAMBERS

"The biggest challenge imposed by the unwavering pandemic concerns the move to offer virtual or hybrid hearings, and for such new modalities to gain widespread acceptance and adoption by legal practitioners.

"Through the integration of both physical infrastructure and digital equipment and expertise, clients remained able to conduct seamlessly connected hearings without sacrificing efficiency and productivity," she said.

To further boost usage, Maxwell Chambers in May entered into an International Arbitration Centre Alliance (Iaca) as a founding centre alongside the International Dispute Resolution Centre of London and Arbitration Place of Toronto and Ottawa.

The alliance provides global hybrid hearing services where users may attend a Iaca facility closest to them, and others are able to attend a hearing remotely via a secure virtual platform, Ms Yap said.

She added that the use of virtual and hybrid hearing services has increased by more than 90 per cent over the past six months due to the prevalent travel restrictions and related pandemic concerns.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2020, with the headline 'Maxwell Chambers turns to virtual hearings amid Covid-19'. Print Edition | Subscribe