This interesting question is raised by Richard Susskind in his newest book "Tomorrow's Lawyers" (Oxford University Press). In this book, as in his 2008 work "The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services", Susskind explores the implications of Information Technology on the practice of law. You can read an excerpt here.
The prediction that there will be more electronic filing of documents, more screens in the courtroom so all participants are looking at the same page and real time transcripts, come as no surprise, but if Susskind is right we can also expect to see virtual courtrooms in the context of civil litigation. Susskind asks:
"To resolve disputes, do parties and their advisers need to congregate together in one physical space, in order to present arguments to a judge?"
In answer he makes this prediction:
"For tomorrow's lawyers, appearance in physical courtrooms may become a rarity. Virtual appearances will become the norm…"
What are the implications for civil advocacy? Presumably virtual appearances will happen first for hearings that do not involve witnesses and viva voce evidence, but even so, do the same techniques of persuasion apply? Arguing a case on a factual record via video link will be a very different experience.