Press Release

Wilson Elser Sees Virtual or Hybrid Trials and Arbitrations as a Fact of Life in the Future

Prediction Comes as Firm Holds Mock Trial Training for Next Generation of Attorneys

NEW YORK (March 24, 2022) – National law firm Wilson Elser today announced that the firm sees virtual or hybrid jury trials, bench trials and arbitrations continuing as the nation and its court systems transition out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The prediction came during Wilson Elser’s National Mock Trial Training Program earlier this month. The program was the culmination of weeks of preparation, including participants’ completion of several related CLE courses, and it succeeded in furthering the firm’s objective of “developing the next generation of trial lawyers,” said Wilson Elser Chair Daniel McMahon.

“Virtual or hybrid jury trials, bench trials and arbitrations will be a fact in the future,” said Stratton Horres, senior counsel and co-chair of the firm’s National Trial Team (NTT). “We expect virtual proceedings are here to stay throughout the pandemic – and in some capacity beyond the pandemic.”

Horres noted that virtual proceedings can provide greater availability and access to the courts, and while attorneys need to learn and maintain traditional trial skills, they should be prepared to evolve with more hybrid proceedings in the coming years.

Wilson Elser has closely followed the impact of COVID-19. A survey of insurance carriers commissioned by the firm found that 80% of participants indicated organizations have “seen sufficient benefit from virtual activities” to continue them post-COVID-19 and are looking to include them in their guidelines going forward. See Wilson Elser Study on Litigation Management Practices Finds Strong Support for Strategic Use of Virtual Litigation Activities Post-Pandemic – Press Release

The mock trial program gave the attorneys the opportunity to learn how to manipulate the platform for exhibits and how to connect with jurors virtually.

With COVID-19 on the wane, it is expected that the next iteration of the program will follow a more “hybridized” format, with greater face-to-face interaction. What will remain the same is the transfer of knowledge from the firm’s most successful trial lawyers to those destined to join their ranks. As McMahon commented with respect to how Wilson Elser invests in its people, “It’s who we are and what we do.” 

Wilson Elser senior partners who regularly try cases served as judges, jurors were firm paralegals and professional staff, and witnesses were firm attorneys. The program was conducted virtually, including participants from Wilson Elser offices network-wide and reflecting the future of courtroom trials as virtual and hybrid environments become more commonplace.

McMahon, Horres and fellow NTT co-chairs Mat Ross and Eugene Boulé were among those who opened the program. They discussed with the aspiring trial lawyers how much can be learned from seasoned Wilson Elser litigators whose careers include appearances in various local, state and federal courtrooms.

Three virtual trials were conducted concurrently, each including two plaintiffs and two defense attorneys. Conforming to actual trial proceedings, they included opening remarks, examinations and cross-examinations of witnesses, closing arguments and jury verdicts. Following the trials’ completion, the NTT co-chairs and program judges conferred and shared their feedback.

“We don’t think many firms invest in the trial/courtroom skills of their attorneys at this level or in this manner,” added McMahon.

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