The Covid-19 pandemic caused a shift from face-to-face arbitration hearings to virtual ones. After an initial period of doubt, hesitancy and even resistance, many parties realized that virtual hearings offer many advantages. They are less costly, easier to schedule and more practical, especially when they involve parties from different countries who speak different languages. There are now a number of companies that specialize in online hearing management, court reporting or interpretation services.
Enterkon has accumulated more than 150 interpreter days of experience in virtual ICSID and ICC arbitration hearings since the pandemic began. It also offers consulting services to parties who are holding a virtual hearing for the first time. Based on Enterkon’s extensive experience, here are some tips for successful virtual and hybrid hearings with interpretation.
Good connection and bandwidth: The weakest link at any virtual meeting is the participant with the slowest internet connection. While arbitrators and the parties may have access to high speed internet, fact or expert witnesses may not necessarily have the required connection speed or bandwidth – especially if they are connecting from countries with a poor infrastructure.
Headset with built-in microphone: Sound quality is a top priority at virtual hearings. Presenters should be encouraged to wear headsets with built-in microphones for better audio. Interpreters cannot translate what they cannot hear clearly. Although sound quality is key for all participants, it is especially relevant for interpreters since they need to hear the speaker clearly while speaking at the same time.
The right virtual platform: Make sure you work with experienced virtual hearing management companies and language service providers to select the platform that best meets your needs. Some virtual meeting platforms such as KUDO are developed specifically for simultaneous interpretation in multiple languages and offer GDPR-compliant security features. Others such as MS Teams do not have a real-time translation feature and allow consecutive translation only.
Background materials: Interpreters should have access to the case files. This is even more important for virtual hearings. They also need sufficient time to study hundreds of pages of legal and technical files.
Rehearsal: It is vital to hold a dry run where all parties connect from the location where they will join the hearing with the equipment they will use at the hearing. The rehearsal should include everyone involved, i.e. the arbitrators, counsels, court reporters, interpreters and technical support staff. Complex cases with a high number of participants in different locations may require multiple rehearsals.
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