Stewarts has been listed as a standout firm for our response to Covid-19 in the latest FT European Innovative Lawyers guide, one of only four firms to achieve this high accolade in the 2020 report.

The firm led the way in ensuring the continued administration of justice for its clients when it made arrangements, at very short notice, to hold the first fully virtual trial in the Commercial Court.

Fiona Gillett, Ian Gatt QC, Joe Mitchell and Aleks Valkov represented the National Bank of Kazakhstan and the Republic of Kazakhstan in a legal case against The Bank of New York Mellon & Ors. The trial was scheduled to start on 23 March, but given the likelihood, at the time, of lockdown restrictions being announced in the UK (as they then eventually were on 23 March), it was looking unable to go ahead in the usual setting. Accordingly, on 19 March, the trial judge directed that the start date be delayed by a few days in order for the parties to set up arrangements for a virtual hearing. It eventually started on Thursday 26 March 2020. The trial could be watched on screen in the Rolls Building but could also be viewed online (on YouTube) pursuant to the power granted in the Coronavirus Act 2020 to broadcast proceedings.

After the trial, judgment was swiftly delivered, being handed down on 22 April 2020, less than a month after the trial and Stewarts earned praise from the judge in his judgment for enabling the trial to take place notwithstanding the impediments caused by the outbreak of coronavirus.

Fiona Gillett commented:
“We’re delighted that our efforts to complete this trial have been recognised by the FT Innovative Lawyers panel. It was important to us that the trial date was not adjourned and that our clients weren’t made to wait any further. The technology worked well, the legal teams adapted quickly and co-operatively to a new hearing format and we can certainly see how remote hearings may continue to be used in the future to alleviate pressure on court facilities.”

After the trial, the team shared their experiences with the legal profession in a webinar outlining the lessons learnt from setting this up at short notice. Fiona Gillett has also spoken on what other jurisdictions can learn from the UK courts management of remote justice. A podcast is here, and webinar is here.

The FT recognised Stewarts as a ‘Standout’ law firm for its work setting up the trial. Read more here.




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