In Construction Law Journal Article, Akin Gump International Arbitration Lawyers Examine Virtual Hearings

Construction Law Journal has published the article “Virtual Hearings in International Construction Arbitration: Evolution or Mitigant?” The article, written by Akin Gump international arbitration and dispute resolution partner Hamish Lal and associates Léa Defranchi and Josephine Kaiding, examines the rise of virtual hearings and suggests that some of the compelling reasons given in favor of physical hearings should be revalidated before a permanent move to virtual is considered the default.

The authors write that, while virtual hearings can lead to certain enhancements in the arbitration process, they question “whether the switch from physical to virtual is an inevitable evolution in international arbitration procedure” or if it is simply “a temporal reaction to the various problems caused by a pandemic.” They then cite examples of cases highlighting the importance of physical hearings as well as others leading to some concerns with virtual hearings.

The article concludes by noting that “observing a person’s overall demeanor, their surroundings, and the real-time reactions of other participants in the hearing room often yields useful information.” Maintaining hearings that are entirely virtual, the authors add, means that “the interactions between the tribunal, counsel, witnesses and experts which are specific to evidentiary hearings, are lost.”