Zoom Divorce & the Modern Lawyer in 2021 – Part III: Tips & Tricks
In Parts I and II we examined the importance of optics and also the nuts and bolts of the Zoom divorce, now for some fun stuff! Zoom Divorce Tips & Tricks.
Lights (and Sound)
Lighting goes a long way to looking successful. If you are in a room with natural light (door or window), try to face the light. Always avoid having the natural light directly behind you. Consider purchasing lighting for your zoom hearings. Ring lights are popular. I use two LED lights on tripods and position them at 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock about 30 cm above head level. They were relatively inexpensive and can be delivered from Amazon or other online retailers usually within a few days. Consider using parchment paper over each light to provide for a softer colour and to reduce squinting (and possible RBF – see Part 1).
Desktop computers are not always equipped with speakers or microphones. Zoom divorces are the ‘new normal’ and we are not likely to see any change back to in person hearings anytime soon. It is therefore worthwhile to invest in some quality equipment. For a microphone I use the Blue Yeti (also easily available online) and would recommend paring it with a pop filter. Keep the Yeti vertical, do not tilt it towards as this will diminish the audio quality.
If you are using a desktop, you will likely need to get a webcam. For the reasons already mentioned, it would be worthwhile investing in quality HD video cam. Depending on your setting you can also get remote control cameras and webcams with wide angle lenses.
I use a MacBook Pro laptop with decent quality video camera built in. Consider a laptop stand to raise your computer’s camera to eye level (or some books will also do). I have a small stickie with a smiley face and arrow pointing to the camera to remind me to look into the camera. It can be very distracting when participants use multiple screens and spend the conference looking away from the camera.
Aim for a quiet work space when conducting a zoom divorce. Zoom offers a feature that enables the muting various types of background noise. Work at stable work station. Driving or walking around can be very distracting. Consider whether your desk or table shakes when you lean on or write it on. This can also pose a distraction.
I am not a fan of fake backgrounds but appreciate that we do not always have the perfect workspace to conduct a zoom divorce hearing. Here are a few resources for backgrounds:
- Pexels offers a vast collection of high definition desktop wallpaper backgrounds. They are lush and enormous, and you can’t take your eyes off of them.
- Studio Ghibli, provides a collection of stills from their movies to use for free as a Zoom backgrounds.
- Unsplash provides high-resolution free photographs including office-like or modern, like this one, but this can be distracting as the clock does not move and someone is will be sure to mention this.
- Zoom Backgrounds of Famous Shows from Modsy. You can look like you’re working from Seinfeld’s apartment, Monica’s place in “Friends” .
Zoom Divorce Tips & Tricks
- Be early.
- Dress professionally.
- Prepare for bumps in the road. Plan for tech failures and have redundant systems.
- Sit up in your chair. Avoid slouching or leaning on the table in front of you.
- Remember to breathe regularly. Proper breathing calms your nerves and helps you think better. You look and feel more alert.
- Always make eye contact, look into your camera.
- Speak loud and sound confident. Be mindful if other participants can hear you. It is ok to pause and confirm if everyone can you hear you clearly.
- Address the court when you arrive for your Zoom hearing with a good morning or good afternoon. This will confirm whether device has finished connecting. Then mute your speaker until it is your turn to address the court.
- Tell your client to keep their device muted at all times, unless specifically requested to address an issue by counsel, the court Registrar or the presiding Justice. Have your client client practice muting and unmuting the devices they plan to use (computer, and maybe smartphone backup) in advance as the buttons may different on difference screens.
- Do not update your zoom software shortly prior the hearing. The update may take several minutes and cause you to be late.
That’s a Wrap
Zoom divorce will be the new normal until at least 2022 or perhaps 2023. The pandemic has forced the Justice system to pivot to digital with online zoom hearings and digital filing of court forms. The silver lining in the move to digital are that the practice of law for family lawyers and the administration of Justice are becoming much more efficient. Lawyers can conduct new client meetings the same day via zoom. Court conferences that would often take several hours (commuting, parking, court security, waiting for your turn on a busy court docket, negotiating, debriefing clients and a commute back to the office or home) have now been reduced for most cases to under one hour.
Public complaints about the delay and expense of the family justice systems were common place prior to the pandemic. We now have an opportunity to expand on these new efficiencies to expand and improve access to justice.