Zoom Divorce & the Modern Lawyer in 2021, Part II: Preparing for Court
In Part 1, we reviewed the importance of playing your part and looking professional. In this edition we will look at the nuts and bolts of getting ready for your court hearing.
The “Zoom” Divorce Hearing
Be Prepared and Come Early
Run a mock zoom conference with your client, or have a clerk do this, prior to the scheduled court hearing. Turn on the video, test your audio, position yourself in relation to the camera (ideally eye level to the camera), and get acquainted the rooms, waiting room, main room, break out rooms.
Find out the court’s preferred format for documents and make sure your court documents meet the size limits and are filed on time. Be mindful of the practice directions issued by the court regarding page limits and filing requirements. If you have a case that requires an interpreter, let the court know because setting it up requires preparation in advance.
Take advantage of Zoom’s breakout room feature to consult with clients and check in with court staff.
Remember patience is the new currency of the pandemic. It may take time to access materials online while also appearing online. Ensure your documents are easy to find.
Plan for bumps in the road
Consider having a hardcopy of your essential documents (briefs, memos, draft orders) ready in case you experience a network failure. One tip is also have homemade signs ready to avoid interruptions of speaking over each other to communicate possible problems, such as: unstable internet connection, faster, slower, louder, you are muted, video off, etc.
Let your team or family know that you are online
If you are recording, doing an interview, conducting a client consultation or court conference, let your team know in advance to minimize interruptions. If working remotely or from home let your family know. That gives them a chance to access your work area (whatever part of the home it is) prior and to avoid interruptions during. For example, if you are working in the dining room let your family know when you start. They may want to pop into the kitchen to get a coffee or make lunch. Also, let your team / family know when you are done so they are not walking around the house on pins and needles.
Consider posting a sign on your front door, asking couriers not to ring the doorbell or knock on the door and to leave any packages to avoid unexpected interruptions. If you have dogs or pets consider exercising them or taking them for walk prior to your court hearing. They will be a lot calmer and relaxed and less likely to interrupt you. It also a good idea to get some air and exercise before starting court conference to help you clear your mind.
Have a clean and tidy space
In Part 1 we reviewed the importance of looking professional. This extends to your work space when you conduct a Zoom divorce or online hearing. Clean the bookshelf or area behind you. Do not have other client files visible. Avoid ceiling fans and any backlight, such as window or door.
Some people like fake backgrounds for Zoom. This can be distracting if you chose a beach or ocean. I prefer no fake background because they can look cheesy and unprofessional. However, they are necessary if you are on the road or in an environment that will not present as professional. Consider taking photos of your office, office desk or boardroom an use these as alternate backgrounds when necessary.
Have a backup plan
Your device might fail and or your internet connection might be spotty. This can be a common problem when you are on the road or traveling. If you are required to travel at the same time you are conducting a zoom divorce hearing, avoid areas with spotty internet connection. Plan where you will be when it is time to start your conference.
Always have a redundant backup device. If you are on a laptop the battery might fail. Have an alternate power source. Consider using a smart phone or tablet as a backup device should your primary connection fail. You may need to set up a hotspot to connect to your hearing. Avoid using public Wi-Fi or unknown networks as they pose a significant risk of a data or security breach. Also encourage your client to have redundant systems in place.
Being prepared and ready to start early can save time and expense. There will be tech hiccups, both expected and unexpected, when it is time conduct your zoom divorce. Anticipating bumps in the road and having a plan to deal with them in advance will help set the stage for success. Now that we have reviewed the importance of looking professional and being prepared, in our third and final part of Zoom Divorce & the Modern Lawyer we will take at some fun stuff: Tips & Tricks.
If you are going through a separation or other family law related issues, to ensure you understand all of your options and rights, you do not need to wait and you can get started online with us today or get in touch with us.