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When the Pursuit of Justice Goes Virtual

Many law firms promote their services by telling you that they know their way around a courtroom. But do they know their way around a virtual courtroom? Unfortunately, many attorneys do not, which creates problems for their clients and the courts.  Case in point:  see the now viral video of the “cat lawyer,” which hilariously shows a Texas attorney nervously trying to explain to a judge that he is not a cat even though he had a cat filter enabled on his zoom profile. While this video may be the funniest example, it is not the only one. There are thousands of funny, and not-so-funny, examples of attorney mishaps using Zoom or other video teleconferencing services. And when these mishaps adversely affect a client’s interests or interfere with the proper functioning of the courts, they’re no laughing matter.

With so many courts going virtual in response to the pandemic, attorneys owe it to their clients and the courts to be technologically proficient. Unfortunately, some seasoned attorneys who know their way around an actual courtroom are still struggling to adapt. They may like to joke about how “technologically challenged” they are, but judges are rightly losing patience with those who try that excuse. And clients shouldn’t accept the excuse either. A client’s case can suffer when the attorney does not know how to effectively use Zoom or other technologies to argue in court, examine a witness, or introduce exhibits.

The same can be said for hearings at the municipal level. Zoning hearings and appeals are often virtual now. For example, we have helped clients obtain special use permits and appeal land use decisions all via Zoom. A persuasive presentation often involves the effective use of not only Zoom but also PowerPoint and Adobe Acrobat. If an attorney is not adept at using such technology, their client’s application or case will not be put in the best light.

Even though the shift towards virtual proceedings was largely pandemic-induced, there is a very good chance that many court and municipal proceedings will continue to be held virtually after the pandemic subsides. Virtual proceedings save time, money, and offer other benefits in-person proceedings simply cannot. Why should we have attorneys spend time traveling at a client’s expense to appear in court or before a zoning board when the matter can just as easily be handled via Zoom?

At Dalton & Tomich, we know our way around a courtroom, even virtual ones. We have handled virtual court proceedings in state and federal courts. We have also handled virtual trial work, as well as zoning and land use hearings. We stand ready to help our clients pursue justice in this increasingly virtual world.

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