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Virtual hearings were not unheard of pre-2020. The family courts for years experimented with allowing counsel to appear virtually for pre-trial conferences subject to certain conditions being satisfied. Likewise the State Courts, although the response was lukewarm. Teething issues with technology for the conduct of virtual hearings were never really properly ironed out; or perhaps the inertia was because the lawyers preferred the camaraderie of bantering in person.
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Last year, Singapore’s landmark Convention on Mediation formalised the city-state’s well-earned reputation as an attractive arbitration hub, with legal muscle and global recognition to back up its standing. But as the government continues to fine-tune the law and COVID-19 continues to cast a shadow, the market still has work to do. 
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The global pandemic has rapidly sped up technology adoption across even typically conservative industries and users, and the disputes hearing process is no exception. While for some, this has created a steep learning curve, cost efficiencies and time saved, are among the payoffs that ensure digital disputes are likely here to stay. 
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As the mammoth Belt and Road initiative touches some 70 countries, complex commercial disputes cannot be avoided.