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COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Task Force studies remote proceedings

Senior Editor Top Stories

Jorge Luis PiedraThe COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Task Force is planning a major survey to help determine the most appropriate legal proceedings to continue conducting remotely after the health crisis subsides.

Jorge Piedra, chair of the Post Pandemic Remote Proceedings Subcommittee, told the task force at an October 17 meeting that his panel met earlier this month and is already hard at work.

“Our plan is to create a survey to issue to all the members, so that they can give us their feedback on how they feel about continuing remote proceedings,” he said.

Anonymous surveys conducted earlier this year by President Dori Foster-Morales in each of Florida’s 20 judicial circuits suggested that most Bar members would favor conducting at least some proceedings remotely on a permanent basis.

However, some members expressed a strong objection to using remote technology in criminal and other high-impact proceedings.

Piedra told the task force that the subcommittee has contacted the Rules Committee to determine the scope of relevant proceedings that should be considered.

“Our game plan, essentially, first of all, is to get the universe of the different kind of proceedings that we have,” he said.

The subcommittee also expects to consult leaders of some of the Bar’s larger sections and divisions, including the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section, the Business Law Section, and the Family Law Section, Piedra said.

“I think there’s been a lot of positives that have resulted from this pandemic, and our lawyers certainly have an open mind,” he said.

Meanwhile, the task force’s Section Outreach Subcommittee has begun its follow-up mission to make sure that the various legal specialties have been consulted about their pandemic concerns, said Chair Laura Davis Smith.

“To date, the only responses that we’ve gotten is that we’ve been handling things well,” she said.

After the Thanksgiving holidays, the task force will turn its attention to the post-pandemic future, said Chair Michael Tanner.

The task force is considering hiring consultants to lead a “design-thinking” exercise, Tanner said.

“Those of you who have served on the board’s Future Planning Committee know that typically we use a professional facilitator,” Tanner said.

Jay Brown, chair of the Future Changes to the Legal Profession Subcommittee, told the panel that he has invited rival consultants to pitch competing design-thinking proposals.

The two firms are Treehouse Analytics of London and Stonehill Innovation of Tampa, Brown said.

Design thinking will help the task force contemplate all of the changes that the pandemic is expected to bring to the profession, Brown said.

“I call it brainstorming on steroids,” he said.

Learning the technique will have lasting benefits, Brown said.

“The benefit is two-fold, maybe more,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for lawyers who maybe have not been in a design-thinking exercise, and you might find it useful in other things that you do.”

Tanner said he was considering inviting the Strategic Planning Committee to join the exercise.

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