Pandemic Practice Pointers
By Mary-Ellen King • Nov 1, 2021 • In Austin Lawyer, official publication of the Austin Bar Association
The pandemic has changed the way we practice law and live our day-to-day lives. As lawyers, we adapted to many challenges as our practices shifted from in-person hearings and meetings to Zoom and virtual courtrooms. Here are a few suggestions for practicing law during the pandemic:
Be civil. These times are difficult for everyone, both professionally and personally. Lawyers should act in a way that advances the best interests of the client and the legal system. How can we do that? Be respectful in our communications with everyone, including colleagues, opposing counsel, and court staff. Return calls or emails promptly. Manage expectations—if you say you’ll do something, do it. Act with civility towards other lawyers, non-lawyers, the judiciary, and the judicial staff, especially during the stressful times.
PIVOT WITH GRACE
If we have learned anything over the last 18 months, it is that things do not always go as planned, especially with technology. Think about your backup plan to manage your stress when technology goes awry on your end and be graceful when it’s not happening to you. Setting a calm and professional tone in difficult situations is the hallmark of our profession, and it is what is best for our clients.
Preparation is key! For efficient and effective courtroom and deposition presentation, exhibits should be prepared and labeled in advance and uploaded or shared according to the local rules. It always takes more time than you think, so do not wait until the last minute. It is important to prepare your clients for Zoom hearings, mediation, and depositions—no driving, no sidebar conversations with family members, no offensive language, no illegal substance use, no background distraction, and no cat profile photos. Have a run through Zoom meeting with your client to ensure the Zoom profile name is professional, practice mute, explain breakout rooms, tell them who the other participants will be and their roles, practice sitting still and limiting facial expressions. We all know horror stories we have seen or heard of over the last 18 months. They can mostly be eliminated with preparation. Ultimately, lack of preparation delays the judicial process and distracts from real issues in the case. In many instances, lack of preparation is detrimental to clients. This can all be avoided with advanced preparation for virtual hearings, mediations, depositions, and meetings.
Check in on your colleagues. Make an intentional effort to grab coffee or lunch. Human connection is the key to wellness during stressful times. Check on yourself—sleep eight hours, eat nutritious meals, drink water, schedule doctor appointments, unplug, take a nap, go to the spa, go for a run, ask for help, etc.