Top Attorneys Share How Video Technology Has Affected Their Practices in 2020
Patricia Martin, of Patricia Martin Law shared: “Courts can be very intimidating places where people don’t want to go and sit outside a courtroom with other people waiting to be heard by a Judge. Attorneys and self-represented litigants can work together now by using technology in court as a way to cut legal costs and make Courts user-friendly. Technology, like Zoom takes the scare out of going to court for a lot of people who now can appear telephonically using Zoom. US Courts now serve as models for courts internationally on digitalized methods which down-down court processes for people to get court access safely and quickly. Courts also play an important role in meeting the needs of the public where many are poor and need the power a judge holds in their hand. Judges as public servants know people use Facetime to connect with friends, family and loved ones, Using simple technology at home can help people practice at home online on how best to tell a Judge sitting in Court very clearly, quickly, telephonically via Zoom what is the help they need right now.” “In situations where an individual is afraid of the court (which is not unusual as courts can be very intimidating), technology like Zoom and Facetime can really minimize the emotional stress clients feel when they have their appearance, while helping create the most expeditious process they can. I think in situations where an individual is afraid of a courtroom experience, video has been helpful for them. The clients generally don’t want to sit in a room filled with people and get their hearts pumping. I think it’s a wonderful way for the courts to meet the need for their role in serving the public. I see technology exponentially increasing in use – expediting the process and removing paper are good things in my opinion. The technology roadmap is in place right now in the US and will serve as a model for other nations.” Ann Marie Morelli of MoLaw said: “I actually prefer a tele-client hearing – I think it’s more efficient. The downside is that billings have been reduced which has had an impact on my income, as I’m the sole provider for my family. I feel that the use of technology will not go away when this is over – it’s more efficient and I believe it is here to stay – it just makes things more efficient. Our courts were stuck in limbo since the situation hit. There has been complete court closure and the courts were very reluctant for court cases and trials to happen.
At this point though, 75% of our hearings are telephonic. In person is happening only when absolutely necessary. The courts are open but are very restrictive right now.” Michael Brush, of Miller, Walker and Brush had this to say: “Using tech is completely new for us since the situation occurred. We never did any Zoom or web based technology before. We took baby steps over the last five years, yet this situation forced us to make changes quickly. I had never done a Zoom hearing for the practice. There were negative and positives for me. In the last 100 days I’ve done plea and disposition hearings and juvenile trials via video and they have been effective and I’ve enjoyed it. There’s something to be said about seeing someone in person. People’s body language is important and you can tell people’s reactions to the questions you are asking and with video you lose some of that. When you get into a situation in a criminal case and someone’s freedom is on the line, I’m convinced that you need to be in a court. I don’t know how you could do it any other way. There’s something about being in court that you just can’t replicate with video.” George Lovett, of Lovett & House shared: “The last few months has had a profound effect on how we do business. Our practice is a volume practice and we have had a heavy web presence, yet prior to this situation our marketing was dependent on dinner seminars and doing presentations in nursing homes, churches and nonprofits – needless to say that is all done for the moment.
Since March of this year, we have had to do a massive amount of web content and Zoom has had a profound impact on our practice. The new content on our web site has opened up a new vista for us to get new clients, yet our old approach to getting clients via public speaking and events is gone for now.
Fortunately we haven’t had to lay our staff off and our clients have been well taken care of. I think most things will eventually get back to normal but no one knows how long that will take. Some things, like easy access to facilities and making presentations there, are probably done for good.Nearly all of the Zoom meetings are set up by the children, not the elderly for whom we are doing the planning.
If you don’t react and adapt, you will get run over.” Ernesto Walsh of the Abogado Ernesto Law Group, had this to say: “Things in the courts were rough at first, but most judges are having video conferences and that’s working more smoothly. Most of our clients are low income Spanish speaking people who are not tech savvy and so face to face communication is still very necessary. On top of that, our clientele were not eligible for subsidies which also had an impact on our firm. We had to shut down one of our three offices due to the fact that our immigration clientele weren’t able to make payments. To continue offering face to face meetings, we have had to implement extra sanitization, temperature checks and masking which helped us keep the practice going.” Bob Hoffer, of Dressman Benzinger LaVelle Lawyers shared: “We worked remotely for about a month and then we began inviting people back into the office. We spent a lot of time reconfiguring all three offices and put together a comprehensive plan including taking temperatures and implementing questionnaires and working hard to protect our employees. Technology really helped us navigate these difficult times effectively and our firm has not missed a beat. Within a week we were able to get everyone laptops and use a VPN and begin using Zoom meetings. It’s been amazing to see how efficiently we have been able to work remotely.” David Kapor, of Kapor | Davis & Associates said: “In the past, our clients took it for granted that they would meet with an attorney in our office. Now they find it much more convenient to meet via Zoom, or over the phone. We helped set up a complete home office for our employees to work at home and we’ve found it to be more efficient. The downside to that is that there is a lack of socialization working remotely. It’s also difficult to train new staff from home due to logistics. Right now we are not meeting with clients in person and the social security admin is conducting meetings over the telephone, yet it’s problematic with certain types of people. A good percentage of our clientele have been open to using Zoom or Facetime and I see a portion of our clients always wanting to use it in the future.” Melanie Shapiro, of The Law Office Of Melanie Shapiro Shared: “I’ve always offered virtual consultations over Zoom and Facetime, so it has not been a drastic change. In the last few months, no one has come into the office however. Many of our clients are from Africa and South America and they have reacted differently to technology in that they have had a hard time using technology. Skype has been a bit easier for some of our clients to use so that’s been helpful. Marketing in these times have been challenging and we have really stepped up our game on the marketing front.” Ben Calkins, of Calkins Law Firm said: “The attorneys that work for me all work remotely and are heavily using technology to get through these times, yet we were prepared prior to it. Our firm has adjusted to this new climate much more than other firms that we know. Most of the clients we deal with we never meet thanks in part to the technology we set up two years ago. I wanted affordable law services to be available with an experienced attorney and the way we set that up was through a mostly virtual environment. I think these times have made us stronger.” Sela Stockley, of The Law Office Of Samia Chandraker said: “We have started doing some Zoom calls and it’s been a bit of a tech challenge, but it’s working for us. Email however, has been the preferred tool of choice for us for client work and we’ve also used DropBox and Google Share to share documents. I think this whole situation has made us realize it is not really necessary for people to come into the office. We have found that meeting with clients over the phone has proven to be more effective and we’re able to get more done.” Greg McCleery and Max Thomas, of McCleery Law Firm shared: Greg – “The main impact I’ve seen is virtual hearings have helped us be more efficient in establishing a regional presence. Many of Ohio’s rural counties are increasingly under-served by attorneys, and one factor in that is the cost of travel time to reach these areas. With virtual hearings coming into play, that has helped pass along cost savings to clients from eliminating travel expenses to rural courthouses.
Another factor we have seen is that many attorneys have become more willing to enter into settlement discussions prior to hearing dates, which creates savings from being able to cut down on trial prep. We are also seeing a movement towards more virtual record-keeping, and virtual filings, from clerks of court. Most of my clients have taken the virtual hearings in stride. I believe they would be very receptive to that format over the long-term, as that could produce substantial savings for them. Hopefully the courts will be receptive to considering this practice after the current crisis abates, particularly for hearings that do not involve testimony and evidence.”
Max – “There has been a drastic reduction in non-critical court appearances, as individual courts adopt new proceedings and the Supreme Court of Ohio continued the vast majority of court deadlines. The crisis has pushed courts to accelerate things like improvements in electronic filings and technology for remote appearances.
I’ve had mixed initial responses to using platforms like Zoom. But most clients are open to technology now that we have an overriding reason to use and try new things and it’s been very helpful. Overall clients have been receptive to it, once they see the benefits.”