In light of the 2019 COVID Pandemic, Zoom Court Proceedings have become increasingly popular. The entire world was forced to adapt to our newfound situation and COVID protocols. For the legal system, virtual hearings became a smooth and efficient way to conduct legal proceedings. Quick court hearings that normally took place in person can now be held virtually. This significantly cuts expenses for the client as they no longer had to pay attorneys for their travel time down to the Courthouse.
The virtual nature of Zoom hearings certainly has its benefits. A Zoom hearing requires a very different approach compared to in-person court proceedings. By now, attorneys have figured out their best practices when appearing for Zoom hearings and there are far fewer technical difficulties. At the beginning of this new digital age, there were some hiccups. You’ve probably seen the video of an attorney in a court hearing with a cat filter on his face.
As the client or witness, appearing at a Zoom hearing may be a new experience. Here are ten tips to help navigate a Zoom court proceeding:
1. Save the Link
Your attorney, the attorney calling you as a witness, or your subpoena will have the link to the Zoom Meeting ID. The Zoom Meeting ID is the unique number that will route you to the hearing in this case. You want to make sure on the date and time of the hearing, you have quick access to the Zoom Meeting ID.
2. Be Punctual
For your Zoom Hearing, you will want to ensure that you are punctual. This applies to both virtual and in-person hearings. Make sure you log on a few minutes before the Zoom Hearing begins.
3. Remember the Formalities
Just because you are on the Zoom Hearing at home or at work doesn’t mean that you aren’t in a Courtroom. The formalities still apply. Don’t log into the Zoom Hearing in your pajamas, in your car, or while you’re walking around the grocery store. This is still a Court of law. You also want to ensure that you are dressed appropriately. If you are a female, make sure you appear in court-appropriate attire, like a sweater or suit jacket. If you are male, a collared shirt will do. Also remember, if you get up from your computer, the Judge may be able to see your bottom half – and you don’t want to be in your PJs! It is important to conduct yourself as if you were in the actual courtroom.
4. Lights, Camera, Angles!
It is important to ensure that the Judge can not only hear you but also see you. You want to ensure that you conduct the hearing in a well-lit room and that your background is not distracting. Don’t add a background on the beach or outer space. You should also conduct your Zoom Hearing while sitting down and keeping your computer or phone still.
5. Eye Contact
During the Zoom Hearing, you will want to maintain eye contact. No one else should be in the room with you while you are on the Zoom Hearing. You want to make sure that you are sitting and looking at the camera while you speak to the Court. Maintaining eye contact will help establish your credibility with the Court and shows that you are an active participant in the proceeding.
6. Cut the Background Noise
You will want to find a quiet space in your home or office to be during the hearing. If you are at home, make sure that the TV is turned off, pets are quiet or put away, and that family members know you are on a Zoom Court Hearing. If you are in the office, close your door or inform your co-workers that you are in a meeting to avoid distractions.
7. Test Your Technology
Before the hearing begins, you will want to make sure that you have a strong internet connection. Check your Wi-Fi to ensure that your connection is stable. You also want to check your microphone and camera to ensure that they are working correctly. It may also be helpful to have a test run of a Zoom meeting in order to familiarize yourself with the settings and features.
8. Know the Court’s Rules
Almost every Court will have policies concerning Zoom Hearings posted on their websites. You will want to review these policies before the Zoom Hearing. Some Courts require all participants to be muted and turn their videos off until they are called. Courts may also have policies about where a participant can conduct the Zoom Hearing. For example, Courts may say that they will not listen to a party or witness if they are in their car during the hearing. It is also important to not interrupt or speak over the other participants in the Zoom meeting. You will want to wait your turn until your case is called or your attorney asks you to speak.
9. Attorney-Client Confidentiality
If you and your attorney are in separate locations for the Zoom Hearing, you will want to ensure that the two of you have a way to maintain contact. There is a “chat” feature on Zoom and if you create a chat – to the group, a particular person or persons, or the Judge – the Judge will get a transcript of that chat. You do not want to include any confidential or privileged information in that chat. Prior to the hearing, ask your attorney what the best way to contact them is during the Zoom Hearing.
10. Be Patient
The rising digital age can oftentimes bring technology problems. It is important to remain patient through the Zoom Hearing. Make sure that you are patient and polite to the Court when addressing the Judge or the Court Clerks. Sometimes there may be technological issues outside of our control and the Court’s control.