Best Practices for Virtual Trials, Hearings in the Age of COVID by Richard Fechter, JD, CAMS, CFE

Posted on June 25, 2020 by Richard Fechter

COVID-19 social distancing has upended the logistical functions of nearly all aspects of American governance, including court systems. With courthouses completely or partially shuttered, the courts are rapidly expanding their reliance on remote teleconferencing capabilities and stepping-up their use of technology to keep dockets moving.

Members of our firm recently attended a three-day hearing in Federal Court (Southern District of Texas, Houston Division), where we observed first-hand some of the efficiencies and challenges that arise when litigants, witnesses, judges and attorneys log in to hearings remotely and communicate through a row of screens. After all, technology can and will fail. Calls may drop, video may be choppy, and audio may be garbled.

Based on our experience and various discussions with colleagues who have also attended virtual hearings and trials, we have developed the following best practices that we believe will be helpful to attorneys and their witnesses attending virtual court.

Backups / Redundancy

Demonstratives and Exhibits

Things to Say or Do Specific to a Remote Hearing


Witnesses can present unique challenges to virtual meetings, especially when they are asked to join a conference mid-hearing rather than at the beginning.  With this in mind, the calling attorney should coordinate closely with witnesses in advance of testimony to ensure proper operation of video and audio access links.

Remote advocacy is an imperfect alternative to traditional, in-person hearings. The processes will be frustrating. It will be unnatural. Surprise visits from children and dogs will happen as participants call in from their homes.  Do not fret. This is the new normal. Laugh it off and move on. As always, good preparation is key to ensuring success in the virtual courtroom and should remain a guiding principle for parties engaged in litigation.

About the Author: Richard S. Fechter, CFE, JD, CAMS, is an associate director with Berkowitz Pollack Brant’s Forensic and Advisory Services practice, where he conducts forensic accounting investigations and provides expert analysis on the economic, finance, and accounting issues pertaining to economic damages and other business matters in complex commercial disputes. He can be reached at the CPA firm’s Miami office at (305) 379-7000 or