While remote depositions, hearings and court arguments can make it difficult to read a client or judge’s reactions, the long-term savings such technology affords may keep law firms and their customers engaged long after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
By Frank Ready, Legaltech News | June 2, 2020
With many courts across the country on the cusp of reopening after weeks of COVID-19 related shutdowns, lawyers may finally be able to step away from their webcams and once again greet clients, judges and opposing counsel face-to-face. However, just because remote court tech won’t be strictly necessary any more doesn’t mean that attorneys are ready to see it go.
In fact, the cost and efficiency gains that processes like remote depositions or hearings afford may be enough to offset any inconveniences in the eyes of law firms and clients. Also, it doesn’t hurt that have already spent the last few months getting a crash course in virtual proceedings.
Maia Aron, a commercial litigator with Mark Migdal & Hayden, said that when she attends Zoom hearings, there are sometimes between 40 to 60 lawyers waiting for their turn in front of the judge.
“It’s amazing how fast people have adapted,” she said.
Aron hopes hearings conducted over Zoom or other video conferencing platforms will continue once the pandemic has resolved, citing the efficiency gains made by sparing attorneys a drive to the courthouse. Instead of sitting in the courtroom lobby waiting for her hearing to begin, she can keep working at her office desk until it’s time to begin.
“The other lawyers that I talk to, everyone really likes the new hearings. And I think it has a good impact on the cost of litigation,” Aron said.
However, the real cost savings for firms and attorneys may come in the form of virtual depositions. Aron, for instance, was originally scheduled to travel from Florida to Kansas for a deposition, but due to the pandemic opted to complete the process virtually. While saving the cost of airline ticket qualifies as a win, the virtual format can pose some challenges to attorneys for which there is no easy workaround.
Nonverbal cues between attorneys and clients, for instance, are harder to send and detect over a videoconference. Aron gave the example of a lawyer attempting to raise an objection to a question asked during a deposition—before a client begins to answer.
“It’s very easy to do when you are sitting next to someone and someone sees you moving [and knows] that you’re going to object. But that’s hard to do over a computer screen. I don’t know how you would do that,” she said.