It’s more likely than ever that you are finding yourself working from home as COVID-19 evolves. Quite possibly, you are part of the trend of attorneys moving away from big cities during COVID-19. Currently, lawyers and legal professionals are finding themselves in a remote work environment for not only research and writing, but they are also taking part in virtual courtrooms.
Although taking hearings, depositions and other meetings in your home office or living room may seem daunting at first, there are practical solutions to help you survive, and thrive, in your virtual courtroom environment. Below are some helpful tools and strategies to help boost your virtual presence:
Create Your Professional Home Office Image
With eye contact and body language being hard to read in this new virtual environment, you’re going to have to up your visual effects game. Choosing the right office space, optimizing lighting, and positioning your camera at the right angle will help you maximize your virtual presence.
First, be sure to set up your office in an ideal location for lighting and noise. A room with a door is best for blocking out noise from your kids or other members of the household who also might be working from home.
The optimal lighting can be achieved by placing your desk in a location that receives indirect sunlight. Professional photographers and videographers will tell you that sitting next to a window is the worst thing you can do. Your image won’t be properly seen on the camera and the people viewing you will only see a dark outline of your image.
Also consider your backdrop: A neutral background in white, or shades of gray, is perfect for a legal setting. If you don’t have a blank wall, bookcases work well. The bottom line is to make sure the background does not look too cluttered or disorganized.
Next, decide if you will be more comfortable standing or sitting. Standing during presentations has its benefits: It can help raise your energy level and make you feel less restricted. But whether you invest in a standing desk or decide sitting is best, you will want to raise your screen so the webcam is at eye level.
Add a box or stack of books under your monitor or laptop raise it to the perfect height. Position your monitor so you look directly at the camera instead of the computer screen. This way, you will be looking directly at the person you are speaking to. It will also prevent the double-chin effect, or worse, the unflattering view of the inside of your nose (yuck).
Equipment Needed for Video Conferencing
Before you even begin to learn or familiarize yourself with video conference applications, you need to set up your technology for optimal performance for the virtual stage.
First and foremost is your webcam. Many (if not all) laptops nowadays come with built-in cameras, but there are plenty of other options out there that will provide better video quality for your virtual presentations. Consider a 1080p webcam with an autofocus feature for the best results. Webcams can be clipped onto your computer monitor, or you can also purchase a tripod to position your camera into any angle you desire.
Most computers and laptops have a built-in microphone, but the sound quality can be pretty crappy. Your voice is important, and you don’t want to risk not being heard, or having it sound like you are broadcasting from a tunnel. Consider investing in an external desk microphone like the Blue Yeti. A basic mic like this will improve your voice, reduce echo, and help eliminate external noise during the conference.
Headphones will also improve the overall sound quality of your hearing. All headphones will work, but earbuds are ideal for a low-profile look.
For better impact and voice control, you are going to want to frame your acoustics just right. If you are working out of a room that doesn’t have carpet or has hardwood floors, add a rug or some drapes. Adding fabric and texture will create better audio and take the echo out of your voice.
Look the Part
What you wear should be similar to what you’d wear to an in-person hearing. While the pajama bottoms and sport coat combination may work for office conference calls, you’ll want to dress professionally for virtual court just like you would for the courtroom. Your complete professional attire will affect how you feel and project the no-nonsense attitude you are looking for. Go for solid colors and clean lines to help build overall confidence and give you that courtroom feel.
Test Your Technology
Some of the most popular video conference software like Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Webex, are now being utilized in the courtroom. You’ll want to brush up on the web conferencing application you will be using a few days in advance to allow for successful remote communications.
If it’s the first time you’ve used an application like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, you’ll have to give special permissions for screen sharing. This will involve restarting the application after setup. Make sure to do this a few days before your virtual appointment to ensure that everything functions smoothly the day of your conference.
You may also want to learn cutting-edge software presentation tools that will help bring your presentations to life. In addition to Microsoft PowerPoint,There are many options for trial presentation software such as ExhibitView Solutions, TrialDirector, and OnCue, that can help make a strong visual impact in the virtual world.
If you’re creating a small presentation, consider Canva, a drag-and-drop graphic design program that can be used to create presentations or other visual content. Canva is simple and can be learned in just a few minutes!
It is also especially important when sharing your screen or showing PowerPoint presentations to remember to turn off your notifications or change your settings to “Do Not Disturb.” You really don’t want the court to see any incoming texts about dinner plans or your upcoming dentist appointments.
Last, But Not Least
- Be sure to check out your court’s local rules to ensure you meet all exchange deadlines prior to your scheduled hearing.
- Also, double-check that all of your gear is charged prior to the meeting.
- Decide ahead of time how you will communicate with your client during the hearing.
Don’t let your next video conference experience scar you for life. After you feel comfortable with your office set up, take the time to do a test run with a friend or co-worker. Ask for honest feedback that will help ensure that you’ve taken all the right steps to succeed and help move you toward focusing on a favorable outcome for your client.
Jana Johnson is a former corporate marketing writer turned legal freelance writer. Colorado-based, she now provides digital content and demand writing for law firms and marketing agencies nationwide.