Recently, a west Texas lawyer had a technical issue during his Zoom hearing that went viral. Somehow, he applied a filter to his video that made him look like a cat and wasn’t quite sure how to remove it. Thankfully, the mistake gave everyone a good laugh, something we all need right now. However, from a lawyer’s perspective, this situation is a real “cat-astrophe.”
In the era of a global pandemic, Zoom hearings are the new normal. Although most of us have become accustomed to supplementing virtual hearings, we can all use pointers on how to improve our Zoom etiquette. While it may feel more impersonal to attend court via a computer, it is still vital to make a good impression and maintain professionalism. Here are some tips for attending hearings via Zoom and other virtual platforms.
Not all courts use the same virtual platform. Be sure that you are clear on what platform is going to be used by the court. Before the hearing, test out the system on your laptop to make sure it works well. Test your audio and video and learn the different controls. Be sure you know how to mute yourself, how to control your name and background, how to disable filters, and become familiar with any chat functions on the platform. Video chat a friend or family member to familiarize yourself with how the platform works. There are many unfortunate examples of people thinking their “mute” button was on when it actually wasn’t: it happened to a young man during a Zoom meeting with his team and supervisor. After several daily “catch up” meetings each day, the man began complaining out loud to a friend at home thinking no one could hear him. His boss and whole team overheard the whole rant.
If you use Zoom to have virtual hangouts with friends or family and changed your name to something crass or funny, make sure you change it back before getting on a hearing or client meeting. Nothing is worse than realizing during or after a meeting that your name was changed to something embarrassing and everyone could see it.
Make sure the lighting wherever you are doing your Zoom hearing is flattering; not too bright, not too dark, and doesn’t drown you out or overexpose you. Confirm that your cameras are in the right place and that there won’t be any audio interference. Opening blinds or curtains and closing all doors that enter into your space can work wonders for your audio and video quality. If you have pets, make sure they’re somewhere else before jumping into your meeting.
Check to see who is going to be around before your hearing. Having people walking in and out of your space is very distracting. If you live with other people, let them know what time you’ll be busy and when you wrap up. Something that is often overlooked is the cleanliness of your office or room. Tidy up; you don’t want people thinking you’re a slob! Additionally, avoid sitting in front of hallways or common areas. This is a recipe for lots of noise: Doorbells, car alarms, and other distractions. Choose a room that is quiet, well-lit and free of clutter.
Review what windows you have open, and we don’t mean windows on your house! If you are asked to share your screen, everyone will see what windows, files, and applications you have up. Double check before your hearing that nothing embarrassing is hanging out on your web browser for all to examine. Another good rule of thumb is if you know beforehand that you’ll be sharing your screen, have the files ready to go prior to the start of your meeting.
Usually, the court’s order scheduling the virtual hearing will include direction from the court about the Judge’s preferences regarding virtual hearings. Make sure to review these orders carefully beforehand, allowing yourself plenty of time to get situated and get your settings adjusted.
Although it has been over a year since the start of the pandemic, there are a lot of things that are still learning curves and elements of our lives that will require time to get used to. No matter how much experience you have with technology, it will fail you from time to time and you might make some silly faux pas. However, there are steps you can take to avoid making embarrassing mistakes such as saying something you shouldn’t have when you thought you were on mute, putting a silly filter on and not knowing how to remove it, or thinking you’re sending one person a chat but accidentally sending it to everyone in the meeting.
You would think this one goes without saying, but surprisingly, a lot of people attend Zoom meetings wearing their underwear or pajamas. Forgetting their camera is on, they get up to go to the bathroom and show their co-workers a little more than they bargained for that day. If you’re in a hearing, that mistake could cause consequences that are heavier than just minor embarrassment. Even if your camera doesn’t have to be on for some reason, get fully dressed and avoid the risk of embarrassment of overexposure on camera. In an age of working from home, getting dressed in “normal” clothes might not be ideal, but it can save you from potentially turning into a viral video.
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The attorneys at Brown & Dutton would be honored to stand by your side during this difficult time. Jenni, Lance, and Tracy are experienced, transparent, and compassionate Georgia family lawyers that have been practicing attorneys for a combined 32 years. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and begin planning for your future. Call (770) 422-4241 or email email@example.com.
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