From court sessions to client meetings, the way legal professionals meet, mediate, or litigate is increasingly happening via video conferencing platforms — so much so that new terms like “Zoom Fatigue” have entered the legal industry lexicon. But after more than a year of pandemic-related remote work, there are a surprising number of lawyers who seem caught off guard by video conferencing mishaps.

To help you avoid ending up all over the internet like the infamous 'cat lawyer,' we've created a list of best practices to ensure success in the new age of remote work.

1. Poor Audio/Video Quality

Remove all the bells and whistles from video conferencing, and it boils down to two key components — audio and video. How you look and how you sound are fundamental considerations.

Generally, sound is more important than video. During a meeting, most won’t notice the difference between a 720p resolution and one that’s 1080p or 4k. But, if your audio is too low, you have a feedback loop, or you experience white noise, your attendees will have difficulty catching details of your finely tuned legal arguments.

Audio solution: Invest in a good USB mic. These sound much better than your webcam, and you won't be tethered to a wired mic that will prevent you from moving around. USB microphones are portable and cross-platform, so if you buy one, you should be able to use it on your PC, Mac, iPad, and laptop.  

Video solution: If you’d like your video to look better than the stock webcam on your laptop or computer, 1080p webcams are affordable and easy to install. Don’t forget to consider the angle of your camera as some software pulls the full image from your webcam resulting in a wide angle, and others keep things a bit tighter. This is important when considering what shows up in the background. You’ll be able to do this when you test the video settings. It's best to have the camera at a height that can be angled slightly down at you. An eye-level angle is a neutral angle, so it neither communicates superiority or inferiority.

2. Failing to Learn the Software Beforehand

Most judges prefer virtual court hearings to take place on Zoom. Since most people know about this conferencing tool, firms consider it a safe bet to use for client meetings. However, it’s not the only video solution on the market. Google Meet, Goto Meeting, Microsoft Teams and others have established products in the space.

Solution: Look at upcoming conferences and hearings to find out the meeting software you’ll use. Visit their website for tips to join, adjust audio/video and other information. For example, here is the resource page to Zoom. The first two videos cover joining a meeting and configuring the audio/video settings.

3.  Inappropriate or Distracting Background

Attending meetings virtually isn’t just about the conversations you have—your backdrop also makes an impact. Before you join a meeting with a client or coworker, check your background — is it free of clutter? Consider what shows up in the camera behind you and ensure that there's nothing that would be distracting to others. Everyone’s attention should primarily be on what you and others are saying, not the setting behind you.

In a hearing, your argument (or examination) is the focal point. There’s a tension to keep in mind when planning the background for your video conference. The most obvious things to avoid would be places like your vehicle or a bathroom.

A background that’s too simple can also be tricky. For instance, a plain white wall with the camera pointed up at your face (often too close to you) isn’t the right look. Similarly, having something that looks like a polished professional studio is equally distracting.

Don’t try to get too fancy with a green screen or filters. If those mess up, it’ll be a distraction to the attendees and everyone will know you have a fake background.

Solution: Consider downloading a work-appropriate background or having a piece of decor (like a plant or painting) that showcases your personality. Uploading background images lets you display any image (or video) of your choice as your background during a Zoom meeting. While ideally owning your real background is easiest, having a background image looks nicer (and neater) than showing meeting participants a disorganized space. It may be a cliché, but keep it simple. Your office is likely the best place, free of distracting signs or collectibles that may spark thoughts outside of your arguments.

4.  Bad Lighting

While great audio is still the most important aspect of your video presentation, bad lighting acts as an inconvenience. If you've ever taken a selfie before, you know the significance of good lighting. Poor lighting can cause a sort of “funhouse mirror” effect, changing your appearance.

Solution: Open up your webcam program and see how you look. Then, try to position lights to look the best. If you feel it’s too dark, add a light or sit next to a window. With so many live streamers and Instagram stars, circle lights are an affordable way to get some good lighting.

5.  Not Testing Your Tech

If you take nothing else from this resource, make it this point. The most important tip is to “show up” about 10-15 minutes before the scheduled conference start time. Most video conferencing software products can “Test Sound” and “Test Video” before the show starts—use it!

Solution: Many errors can be avoided by taking time to ensure:

  • Your headphones/earbuds are connected and receiving sound.
  • The lighting is decent, the camera is working and there’s nothing too distracting going on.
  • Your microphone is working and the audio quality is good.

This is the trifecta of having a good experience.

6. Leaving Too Many Tabs Open When Sharing Screen

Too many tabs or a messy desktop can potentially tell your clients that you’re a tad disorganized when sharing your screen. Plus, it practically makes it hard to navigate the screen without accidently clicking on another tab. You also run the risk of letting others glimpse an image of something that may be private, like your Facebook account, giving off an unprofessional impression.

Solution: To avoid this, close out all unnecessary tabs if there’s even a chance that you’ll be sharing your screen. If you fear losing an important link, bookmark it so that you can visit it later. Do your best to stay organized, maintain professionalism, and use screen share as an interactive tool.

Use Tech to your Advantage

It seems like video conferencing is here to stay. Lawyers better position themselves in virtual court by following a few best practices and embracing technology to position themselves as a tech-savvy professional.

Clio Draft is another way in which technology helps lawyers. The document automation platform saves time for legal professionals in any field of expertise, giving them more hours for other tasks and letting the software do the tedious work.

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