Earlier this year, when COVID-19 forced non-essential businesses to close their office doors, law firm and courtroom employees around the world navigated the transition to remote work for the first time. Now, as we approach a post-COVID-19 world, many law firms and courtrooms are embracing the digital lifestyle with the help of remote tech tools and top cybersecurity software.

How the Legal Industry has Pivoted to Remote Operations

It didn’t take long for the legal industry to realize how much of their responsibilities translate smoothly to the digital realm. For matters of the courtroom such as oral arguments, hearings, and settlement conferences, virtual meetings have proven themselves to be a sufficient mode of operation. And in terms of client relations, many attorneys have found that while business travel was suspended they were able to satisfactorily replicate their client interactions through the use of video conferencing technology.

However, for anyone beginning their career during a global pandemic there is sure to be an additional layer of pressure to perform exceptional work remotely, especially those whose jobs are not typically done from home. To ensure that the new class of young attorneys feel confident working remotely, many workplaces are focusing on creating a professional atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable attending meetings digitally. One way to encourage employees to work within their comfort zones is to use clear language. For example, instead of telling young attorneys to “attend the meetings in-person if you can”— which could easily be interpreted by new employees eager to please as “you must attend in person”— set clear written and verbal expectations for when remote work and attendance is expected or encouraged, to remove any gray area.

Other ways that the legal industry has embraced remote operations include:

  • Firms are providing remote attorneys with the necessary technology for them to reach their full potential while working from home, such as computers, printers, and scanners
  • Firms are reevaluating their technology and software choices, and investing in new cloud-based tech and remote collaboration tools
  • Firms are engaging young lawyers and IT professionals in an effort to rethink their day-to-day processes and make long-term operational changes
  • Firms have established fully-remote mentoring programs to replicate the valuable guidance young attorneys are missing by not working side-by-side with their senior counterparts

Maintaining Client Privacy in the Digital Space

Maintaining client privacy is a necessary component of attorney-client relationships. For newly remote law firms, adjusting to maintaining this privacy when attorneys are communicating with their clients at a greater distance than ever before has posed a challenge.

Earlier this year, when the majority of firms transitioned to remote work seemingly overnight security vulnerabilities began showing their faces. For example, considering attorneys are not typically trained on spotting cyberattacks, when they work remotely they run the risk of leaving critical information in jeopardy. Additionally, remote legal practitioners must take an extra step of precaution when conducting private audio and video meetings to ensure they are maintaining high ethical standards.

So, how are attorneys maintaining client privacy while working remotely?

  • At the beginning of each remote meeting, lawyers should be transparent with clients about why you are using the specific technology you have chosen and remind their clients of attorney-client privilege
  • Ask the client who else is in the room or who else could potentially hear their remote conversation— in some cases, a phone call may be your most confidential mode of remote communication
  • Use encrypted USBs to ensure secure printing of confidential documents at home
  • Maintain all documents in your firm’s centralized document management system to ensure all client documents can be located quickly
  • Firms should revisit their cybersecurity policies with all remote employees to ensure compliance
  • Remote workers should use their firm’s VPN whenever possible, as well as use their firm-issued laptop for all client work
  • Attorneys should be advised to keep an eye out for phishing scams and report any suspicious activity to the appropriate personnel immediately

Case Studies: How Law Firms and Courtrooms Use the Meeting Owl

CourtCall

CourtCall, an audio and video call company that has found a way to eliminate travel to and from the courtroom for any entity within the justice system, utilizes the Meeting Owl for video arraignments, remote interviews, and everything in the courtroom in-between.

“The Meeting Owl is great for the courtroom setting due to the fact when the state reads the probable cause – if you can think of a traditional courtroom setting – the state's attorney is usually five to ten feet away at a different table, looking at the judge,” said Nicole Hebel, the Director of Channel Partnerships at CourtCall. “The Owl allows defendants and inmates to see family members in the courtroom which makes them feel better and can even be therapeutic for them.”

CourtCall has also found that utilizing the Meeting Owl has proven to be a great security and financial benefit for attorneys, as well as a way to introduce remote courtroom technology to judges who do not have experience working in the virtual realm.

“The Owl helps judges be more open to the concept of video technology in their courtrooms as CourtCall is replicating the courtroom experience,” said Ron DaLessio, the Vice President of Sales at CourtCall. “If the person feels as if they are getting virtually the same experience as if they were standing there in front of the judge, that's a win for everybody.”

Grand Traverse County Courts

On the other hand, Grand Traverse County Courts began utilizing the Meeting Owl in response to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines in the courtroom. When the Michigan Supreme Court ordered district courts to begin running remote proceedings, Cliff DuPuy, Director of IT for Grand Traverse County, turned to the Meeting Owl.

“We’ve been using the Meeting Owl Pro to conduct and televise courtroom proceedings via YouTube in our historic courthouse and in auditorium spaces,” said DuPuy. “It makes it easy to connect and hear from remote defendants, attorneys, or expert witnesses, and we can easily disable the 360° Pano to hide the jurors or use the Camera Lock feature to show a specific exhibit.”

Since the early days of the pandemic, Grand Traverse County Courts have been using the Meeting Owl consistently to conduct hybrid trials via video conference— including the very first televised court case during the COVID-19 pandemic— and they look forward to continuing to use it as long as social distancing guidelines are in place and as a virtual courtroom option for when someone can’t make it in-person in the future.

“I love the Meeting Owl Pro, and so do all of our judges and other court administrators, which is why we’re buying more. It’s easy to set up and start using immediately, and it helps courtroom proceedings run more smoothly when we aren’t running into technical difficulties. It just works,” said DuPuy. “Everyone loves when the Meeting Owl Pro hoots when you first plug it in — it de-stresses everyone in what can sometimes be a high-stress setting.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to steer organizations toward remote work, law firms and courtrooms are prepared for whatever challenges this new virtual reality brings. If your firm is new to remote meetings, here is everything you need to know in Remote Meetings 101.

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