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“It’s 2020”

By sedoo

Our previous Wills and Estates blog highlighted the use of technology, videoconference technology in particular, that has taken off since the onset of COVID-19 in March, 2020.

Technology has been a part of law offices for decades. It has included  the fax machine in the 80’s, car telephones in the 90’s, cell phones in the early 2000’s, then the internet and we haven’t looked back. The internet of the last decade has introduced unbelievable efficiencies into our lives and our law offices, all of which make the client experience that much more frictionless.

To successfully close a real estate transaction, we use advanced document automation software, software to conduct title and writ searches, software to communicate, and most recently as of late, software to witness and commission client signings through video conferencing.

In our everyday lives, we use technology to wake up in the morning, schedule things, automate things, generate things, etc. Technology has and will continue to evolve to make our lives better.

Estate Planning has also adapted to conducting intake, drafting, reviewing and signing, all online. Thankfully, Ontario amended legislation quickly to allow video conference signings.

A recent case illustrates how Courts in Ontario have adapted to (and embraced) technology. At issue was a lawyer not wanting to proceed with an examination for discovery at a case conference because it was by videoconference. The lawyer claimed that in light of the implementation of social distancing in response to the pandemic, conducting an in-person examination at this time is not possible. Therefore, he requested a delay in the proceedings until the requirement for social distancing is ended.

The Judge [Myers] answered by saying: ““It’s 2020”. We no longer record evidence using quill and ink. In fact, we apparently do not even teach children to use cursive writing in all schools anymore. We now have the technological ability to communicate remotely effectively. Using it is more efficient and far less costly than personal attendance. We should not be going back.”

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Richard Wagner, announced that he is optimistic about the launch of virtual hearings. Supreme Court hearings will take place through the video conferencing platform Zoom and will be live-streamed on the court's website. It is the first time in the history of the Supreme Court that its hearings have been held virtually.

The use of technology has its challenges, like privacy, equality for all and due process, among others. But we have clearly advanced as a society thanks to the use of technology. As Judge Myers notes, “Technology is a tool, not an answer”. We must proceed with caution by using professional judgment and discretion, something that technology lacks. We must ensure that in our use of technology the client experience and justice are always front and center.

 

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Avi J. Charney is an Associate Lawyer at Kormans LLP. His practice areas include Real Estate Law and Estates Law. You can reach Avi at acharney@kormans.ca.

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