On 21 February 2020, Coleman J of the High Court made an unconventional decision in ordering a directions hearing to be held by telephone in midst of the extensive disruption to court proceedings brought about by the General Adjournment Period of the Courts’ services arising from the coronavirus outbreak (see Cyberworks Audio Video Technology Limited v Mei Ah (HK) Company Limited & Ors [2020] HKCFI 347).

In support of its decision, the Court drew references to the routine use of telephone directions hearings in commercial arbitration. In fact, an online dispute resolution platform developed recently by eBRAM, an organisation created by stakeholders in the legal industry and IT professionals, is being rolled out for business negotiations, mediation and arbitration, as a step to reinforce Hong Kong’s role as a centre for international dispute resolution.

With the encouragement of the Court’s latest ruling, the current coronavirus crisis has created an opportunity for the Judiciary and the legal profession to lobby for the greater use and development of e-filing and technology in court hearings and communications in promotion of more efficient and cost-effective case management. This is in line with trends in other jurisdictions and in other industries, where businesses are striving to be more environmentally-friendly by using the latest technologies available.