By Crystal Pacheco
Last week, we shared an article covering the basics of court cases being met through Zoom, with the big takeaway that Zoom court is still court, and should be treated as such. Even though you’re not physically present in a courtroom, you should dress and act like you are, whether you’re logging into a hearing from your home or your lawyer’s office.
Some lawyers will tell clients to dress in their “Sunday best” or as they would for a “job interview,” but that can still mean different things to different people. We like to be more specific in what we tell our clients. For women, that means a dress, a business suit, or at least a business-appropriate top and a skirt or coordinated pants and a blazer. For men, a jacket, tie, collared shirt, and slacks are most appropriate, though just a collared shirt and tie can suffice. Even when you’re just pixels on a screen, dressing up communicates respect, and it’ll help put you in the proper frame of mind for court.
As long as you’re not sick, you may be able to go to your lawyer’s office for court, as it’s considered essential business. At the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance, we have a conference room big enough to keep a proper distance between the lawyer and the client. We have learned that most of our clients who testify want us at their side, and we are available. If our clients are not testifying however, many of us are Zooming our court appearances from home.
Typically, in court, the lawyer and client would sit next to each other and pass a notepad back and forth with any questions or comments. I’m finding, in this Zoom court environment, that texting is best for that.
While there is a chat function on Zoom, I’d steer clear of a client using that at all. While we’re on that subject, make sure that your mic is muted and stays muted for the duration of a hearing — unless, of course, you’re specifically called upon by the judge to speak. A Zoom court hearing is like an in-person court hearing in that it’s best, as a client, to be quiet, and to try not to react to what’s been said. Grumpy faces are frowned up; in a Zoom meeting, a speaker may be very close to the web camera and so we have to be careful about our facial expressions!
If your soon-to-be ex is on the stand and saying things that aren’t true, that can be infuriating, but showing emotion has the potential to work against you. You don’t want to roll your eyes or express anger or do anything else that might raise a judge’s eyebrows. Know that there will be time to directly address it with your lawyer, as there are breaks in Zoom hearings as well as in-person hearings where you’re able to directly communicate with your lawyer.
We always ask my clients to listen to us and understand that court work is our home place, as court is very familiar to our lawyers and but likely very unfamiliar to our clients. We go into the courtroom with a mission to advocate for our clients. We do so knowing a judge’s expectations around courtroom decorum, and how to best advocate for you in that climate. The Zoom landscape is new for all of us doing court, and it’s taken some getting used to. But a court proceeding, even when it’s done via computer, is not new for those of us at the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance.