The Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 has changed just about every aspect of life, from the way that we shop and socialize to the way that we conduct business. Just about every industry has had to search for a “new normal” that will help them survive and stay ahead through these times, and law services are no exception. While presence in the courtroom has long been an established norm within the field of law, more and more areas are shifting to allow all connected parties to participate in trials virtually, therefore limiting the amount of exposure that anyone has to another person. The use of services like Zoom in law procedures is especially helpful in ensuring that there is no prolonged contact between people, which is incredibly important in minimizing the spread of the virus.
While making the decision to shift law procedures from the traditional courtroom to a virtual setting may seem like a simple enough switch, this has certainly brought to the surface an abundance of procedural questions and has required a full shift in the way that people approach court procedures.
For many areas, including Harris County, Texas, all court proceedings are mandated to be held virtually for the remainder of 2020, and decisions about when—or if—a full return to the previous way of conducting law services will occur is shelved until the end of the year.
Holding confidential meetings and even participating in court proceedings is entirely possible via Zoom, but there are safety precautions that need to be kept in mind for this to work.
These safety precautions include:
- It is important to always ensure your zoom meetings are private and password protected. When a zoom meeting is public it is possible for anyone to join the meeting, which could compromise confidentiality.
- Lawyers should disable the “join before host” option, and enable a waiting room so that you can see exactly who you are letting into the meeting.
- Once the meeting has begun, it is important to lock the meeting to prevent anyone else from attempting to join.
In addition to safety concerns, conducting law procedures online opens the door to privacy concerns and digital etiquette that needs to be followed. In traditional legal settings there is rarely a situation in which a defendant would see into the home of the lawyer defending them. Personal items like pictures of one’s children or things that may show political or religious opinions should be removed from the camera view of the computer so that no personal boundaries are crossed during the Zoom meetings.
Furthermore, meeting with clients and other legal professionals on the computer while working from home offers the chance for increased comfort, but professional attire is still incredibly important. The Zoom meeting should resemble a traditional meeting in every way possible, from the tone and scope of discussion to the choice of clothing for all parties involved. Approaching legal proceedings from this perspective will help to keep as much normalcy as possible as the world begins to move forward one step at a time in this new highly digital age.