So many articles, so many words written about video-conferencing and remote proceedings these days, and rightly so. But, since March when the pandemic grabbed us, I have noticed a clear sea change in the way my clients are accepting video-conferencing versus live mediations. Now, the callers are assuming we will go remotely, whereas early on I was frustrated by their reluctance to do so. (Video-conference Capability).
If you are a litigator, as most of my clients are, you are well aware of the broad swatch of types and genres of cases that are no longer conducted in person. Headlined in the August edition of The Florida Bar News, [the] “11th Circuit holds Florida’s first remote jury trial (jury selection was accomplished remotely and streamlined live on the 11th circuits YouTube page).” This was part of a pilot program that Chief Justice Charles Canady ordered in five circuits.
We do not know how long this pandemic will last or how long steps like this will be called upon. However, I think it is safe to say that the practice of law will never be quite the same if and when this pandemic passes us by. And I believe it is critical (and this is the major point of this article) that we as attorneys get ahead of the curve and learn and practice the technology that will be required of us.
Jim Ash, Senior Editor of The Florida Bar news discusses in part in his article Board tech panel would like to see uniformity for remote proceedings, how evidence should be handled electronically, cloud-based, email attachments, hard copy, etc. Gary Blankenship, Senior Editor, discusses how The Rules of Judicial Administration Committee (RJAC) is grappling with how witnesses can be sworn in remotely, how to deal with waiver of confrontation rights by a defendant in juvenile and criminal cases where the witness testifies remotely, etc. Blankenship discusses how the Bar’s Alternate Dispute Resolution Committee states, “Remote mediations should continue after the Covid-19 pandemic passes… The section recently recommended to the Supreme Court’s pandemic workgroup that conducting on-line mediations should continue to be an option. The workgroup is not only devising ways of handling court work through the pandemic, but recommending permanent changes for the post-coronavirus world.
If you are not already on board with this, there may be some good reasons. It is frustrating learning new technology. I can get a better sense of someone in-person. Or, I have just done it the old way for so long, I just don’t want to change my ways.
Listen up! Or, you may jeopardizing your successful moving forward with your practice! You can do this!!!! If you are reading this article you are probably a law professional with years of study and accomplishment behind you. Think about how hard it was getting through law school, briefing that first case, preparing for your first trial, and on and on. Think about the possibilities: conducting client interviews, depositions, trials and hearings, mediations and arbitrations, partnership meetings, negotiations with opposing counsel and adjusters, and much more. Make it part of your marketing strategy by letting your clients know you are technologically forward-thinking and concerned about creating a safe work environment for yourself and them.
Where do you start, you ask? As always, create a plan. I use Zoom as my main platform because of some features so important to mediators and arbitrators, the breakout-room feature, which so closely emulates caucus. There are other platforms, and I suggest you ask around before you decide which one, or ones, works best for your practice and your personality. Each of these platforms has on-line tutorials that are geared for the average person. It will take some time and inevitable frustration, but you can do it. Docu-sign allows you to sign documents remotely. The Share feature on Zoom allows you to do what it suggests. Get comfortable with your computer and everything it takes to professionally do what you have been trained to do. Feel free to call me if you have a question or two. I am no techno-geek, but might help you muddle through and move forward.
Feel free to contact me with any questions. Contact me.