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Zoom Divorce & The Modern Lawyer in 2021: Part I

Written by Russell Alexander / (905) 655-6335

What is a Zoom divorce?

In Ontario, all in person hearings are effectively cancelled.  You will need leave of your case management Judge for an in person court hearing. This will be unlikely as Courts are pivoting from paper based and in person hearings to digital files and remote hearings by conference calls, skype or zoom.  Zoom trials for the Ontario Superior Court are planned to commence in May of 2021.

Parents can now easily log on to Zoom and meet with their lawyer and sit in front of a judge to conduct their virtual hearings. The efficiencies of this approach are endless, no longer needing to commute, fight traffic, look for and pay for parking, wait for court security, and also wait for your case to be heard.

The disadvantages can seem hidden but they are real. Less in person contact with counsel, your former spouse and the Judge creates less chance of negotiation and settlement. Victims of domestic violence may not have a voice or be pressured into an unfair result. Many have difficulty adapting to new technologies or do not have a stable internet connection of suitable electronic device.

Counselors need to step up, and lead by example in this new age of the Zoom divorce.

Play Your Part and Look the Role, Get Dressed for the “Office” Every Day

You are providing a professional service so it is important to look the part. Also staff and colleagues may take their cue from how you dress and act; show some leadership.

Clients expect their lawyers to dress and act professionals. This can be difficult for some who are in lockdown and not regularly attending an office setting or going to court. Getting “dressed” for work is also helpful for getting into the right mindset in making the mental shift from home to work.  Like putting on your Gowns before a contested motion or trial.

For many men, getting dressed helps make the mental shift from home to work, so even at home consider maintaining this step in your routine.

Don’t go halfway. That’s right, wear pants when attending to client matters or court hearings.  We have all heard of stories of reporters and other professionals who thought it was a good idea to go pant-less. Don’t do it. It will reflect poorly on your reputation if you get caught and worse on the profession.

Dress it up. Perhaps take a lint brush to your blazer or top if you have pets in your home and don’t forget to accessorize: cufflinks, watch, ties (I think are a must for men), pocket squares (why not).

Resting Boredom Face

Resting boredom face (RBF) is also referred by some as ‘resting bitch face’.

The New York Times brought the pop culture term and internet meme “resting bitch face”. There is lots of controversy regarding the gender focus of the word “bitch” and being directed at women. We can also refer to this as resting boredom face. Studies show we make judgements based on facial cues associating happy faces as being more trustworthy. You should be mindful of ensuring a “neutral alert” face rather than the alternative. Here are some simple tips to avoid RBF:

  • Try to look at ease with no tension
  • Tension in the eyebrows can make one look annoyed and angry. This may be alleviated by lifting your eyebrows slightly.

Remember your audience: stoic facial expressions may be off putting from your listeners but try to make eye contact and do not always expect psychical or verbal cues from your audience.

Closing thoughts

Advocacy for many can be one part sizzle and one part substance.  We all went to university and law school, so the substance should be the easy part. The sizzle is where you add your own style and flare. Treat zoom divorce like an in person court hearing. Dress the part and look the role of a lawyer. This will inspire client confidence and put you in the winning mindset for your hearing.  Ensuring proper dress and decorum also enhances respect for the administration of justice.

Now that we have reviewed some tips on looking professional, in Part II we will review tips for how the modern lawyer can prepare for the Zoom divorce hearing.

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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.