Wear a Shirt to the Zoom Courtroom, And other anecdotes from a recent ILTA Meeting

On June 25, I attended (via yet another screen) a fascinating ILTA meeting titled, “Ripped from the Headlines: The Future of the Courts.”

First takeaway: Judge Emily Miskel (470th District Court in Collin County, Texas) rocks. Not only did she share some very helpful anecdotes, but she clearly had some serious technology chops. She had held many types of proceedings virtually, including a jury trial, and had a lot of advice for those listening.

We also heard from Judge Paul W. Grimm, District Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, who had his fair share of tips, anecdotes and advice, as well as Craig Ball, trial lawyer and legal technology author, who was on-hand to discuss some of the more interesting technology advances (and gaffes) he’s seen in the last few months.

Here are some of my favorite quotes and take-aways:

  • “IT people are the unsung heroes at law firms right now.” Judge Grimm
  • “The pandemic has driven fast adoption. Previously, we would have had committees for each phase of technology advancements, and testing phases, and it would have taken two years for us to achieve the level of technology use that we are now seeing.” Judge Miskel
  • On Zoom hearings, Judge Miskel discussed a recent poll that revealed these results: 76% of respondents had done a Zoom hearing; 94% had no issues; 93% had a positive or neutral feeling about the experience.
  • Of the above poll, Judge Miskel said, “When you talk to people who have never done a Zoom hearing, they’re horrified by it. Those who have done it realize that it works.”
  • “Attorneys don’t pick the law because they love technology. They resist it. But resisting doesn’t give your client a good advocate. If you embrace it rather than resisting it, I think you will find it to be a net positive.” Judge Miskel
  • Judge Grimm said that he has had attorneys show up to Zoom meetings with no shirt on or while they were in bed!
  • “I have a lot of self-represented litigants on my docket and many of them are more comfortable with technology than the attorneys that I see.” Judge Miskel
  • Craig Ball, the technologist and trial lawyer, looked to the legal education system and said, “We’ve never taught people to do this. This is not going to end in 2 to 3 months. We’re not going back to normal any time soon. As a profession, we need to look at the longer term and train attorneys to use technology better.”
  • Ball also quipped, “We need to train people in common sense.”
  • Judge Miskel said she had a father show up to a trial on Zoom and he had changed his virtual background to an image of a piece of evidence he was desperate for people to see.
  • Ball also stated, “Technologists have saved the day. They have saved partners and attorneys who have chosen to ignore technology throughout their careers.”

No Longer Possible (or Ethical) to Ignore Technology

Pretty much everyone on the call agreed with this sentiment: In today’s environment, it is not only a career-buster if you don’t incorporate technology into your legal practice; it is unethical. How can you possibly represent someone effectively if you can’t use Microsoft Word, Zoom and even your own email effectively and securely?

Craig Ball suggested that states begin requiring CLE courses that cover, “How to try your case on Zoom,” and, “How to conduct a video hearing.” Based on what I heard, there are many other topics that should be covered, as well. (ie. How to mute your client on Zoom. Good/bad/ugly virtual backgrounds. Wearing a shirt to your Zoom call with a judge. Just off the top of my head.)

Finally, everyone agreed that we will now see (and have already seen) technologies that are “purpose-built” for the new needs of the court. But, again, if your attorneys still can’t use Microsoft Word or Zoom properly, how successful will they be with all these newfangled tools racing into the legal system?

I’ll tell you how! The solution is sitting right in front of your face (literally: on this website). Training! Contact Savvy to learn how we are remotely training many law firms during the pandemic to use technology effectively and securely.


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