At the recent ABA Tech Show, a presentation about “attorney netiquette” got us creating our own list of suggestions for how to best ensure professionalism and etiquette when using tech like Zoom, GoToMeeting, or Microsoft Teams to participate in virtual hearings and client meetings.
Many of us have spent the past year becoming unwilling video conference experts. But with that has also come so-called “Zoom fatigue,” plus a whole host of video conferencing technology “upgrades” that have introduced mishaps. For example, the Texas attorney who made the New York Times and the BBC when he found himself in a court appearance helplessly trapped in a cat filter his daughter had installed on his computer. Not to mention the forever to-be-unknown-to-history US Supreme Court Justice who flushed a toilet during oral arguments.
This brings us to Core Rule Number 1: Do a test run. Before your hearing or client meeting, set aside a brief period of time to do a “test” video conference with a colleague or family member in order to ensure your camera is catching the framing you want, your background (real or virtual) meets your visual expectations, and finally you are presenting as a human.
Core Rule Number 2: For hearings and client meetings, ensure you are in a quiet, private space where you will not be interrupted. Many of us are working from home with children, other family members, and pets who are unable to be completely silent and self-contained for 8 hours per day. Nonetheless, clients maintain an expectation of privacy, as well as an assumption that a three-figure hourly rate has purchased their attorney’s undivided attention. Similarly, judges maintain an expectation of control over their courtroom, even when it is virtual. While we are all (hopefully) extending compassion and understanding to one another in these unique times, the legal profession has maintained noble standards through many changes since its start in ancient Greece, and shouldn’t stop now.
Core Rule Number 3: Keep it short and sweet. As mentioned above, scientists have already begun to prove that “Zoom fatigue” is real. This means at this point in the pandemic, your audience is literally over it before you have even started. Now more than ever, simplicity, clarity, and flair matter. The result is that presentations will be best received when they are engaging and to the point. A tip from the ABA Tech Show presentation that we loved is to schedule a meeting to last slightly longer than expected, because it will forever endear your audience to you when you “end early.” Airlines have been using this tactic for years, so why not lawyers?
Finally, for Core Rule Number 4: Dress professionally. Which is to say, if you aren’t wearing pants, make sure no one can tell.