By Eddie Stephens & Caryn A. Stevens
If you are a litigator, and wish to stay in business over the next few months during this COVID-19 crisis, you absolutely must adapt to the times, and you MUST embrace technology and video conferencing. If you do not have video conference capabilities set up yet, your will clients will quickly be denied access to Courts, and your ability to take depositions, mediate and conduct client consultations will be severely hampered. Court call is still available, but we never liked using it and paying such a steep fee. Plus, if you and your client are ‘social distancing’ and calling in from separate locations, you will have to pay for two Court Call access lines. In our opinion, if a Judge cannot see you during a hearing, I believe you cannot give the most effective or compelling presentation. If you rely on audio only, you are definitely selling your client short.
With that in mind, we have been exploring all video conferencing options. We have explored Skype for Business, FaceTime, Web Ex and a few others. However, the one platform that has seemed to surge in popularity recently is Zoom!
This article provides tips on how to maximize your Zoom presentations, and how to effectively use the tools within the application :
- PRO ACCOUNT v. FREE ACCOUNT. First and foremost, upgrade to a Pro Account for $14.99 per month or $149/year. Don’t rely on the “free” account option. If you pay for the Pro Account, it resolves all concerns of attorney-client privilege. The free account allows Zoom to have access to (and use!), and to monitor your calls, which eviscerates the attorney-client privilege. The free account also has time limitations, and limitations on the amount of people who can participate in a call. Meanwhile, the Pro Account supports dial-in participants (as opposed to just video), up to 100 participants on a call, allows break out rooms (think mediation caucuses) and does not have a 40-minute meeting limit.
- MUTE UPON ENTERING A MEETING. Change your settings so you enter Zoom meetings on audio and video mute. This allows you to compose yourself and gives a more professional presentation. Settings > Video > Turn of My Video When Joining a Meeting and Settings > Audio > Mute my Microphone When Joining a Meeting.
- VIRTUAL BACKGROUNDS. Play with virtual backgrounds. They may not be professional in all circumstances… but they are out of this world! (Literally!) You can upload any picture you want. It’s a lot of fun. Now’s your chance to “travel” to Greece, or put yourself in the middle of your favorite TV show. Plus, using a virtual background allows you to “block out” what’s going on behind For many people, given the current times, we are home working in close quarters with spouses, partners and children. A virtual background prevents the embarrassment of having your spouse or kids walk right behind you during an important video chat. Bonus tip: Get a Chroma Key Green Muslim Cloth for ultimate effect—it serves as a green screen! On main page, click the icon for settings in top right corner–>Click on Virtual Background. There are stock photos there, OR you can upload your own images (click on the plus sign–>add image)
- APPEARANCE. Look fabulous! There is an embedded filter! The longer we self-quarantine, the more we are going to need this filter—lets be honest. Settings > Video > Touch Up My Appearance
- (DON’T THROW AWAY) YOUR BEST SHOT. Consider the compositions of your shot. Does your background represent the professional image you are trying to project or is it a cluttered mess? Time to rearrange the artwork and items on the shelf/walls behind you. Present the best image of yourself to the Court, your client, whomever you are chatting with. It is also generally advisable to position the camera in location higher than your computer screen (i.e. you should never see anything below your waist, and camera angles from below or the side are never good).
- AVOID BACKLIGHT. Try not to have a window in your webcam setup / studio. The backlight will dim and mess with your video quality. We want to see you and not what is behind you.
- SOUND QUALITY. Use a mic! If you rely on the webcam, you will not have the best audio. I currently use AirPods Pro to connect to my chats. If you are making an argument to a Court, you are going to want to be heard clearly. Think about that. Have a trial Zoom run with a friend or colleague to make sure they can hear you clearly from their end.
- EQUIPMENT. Get a decent webcam. Quite honestly, they are impossible to find right now for purchase. You can pay more than retail for a used one on eBay, and if you don’t have one, I suggest paying the premium. The Zoom application can also be used from your iPhone or cellular phone, so in absolute dire circumstances when you do not have a webcam, use your phone to provide clear image and video quality.
Do you have any good tips? Leave them in the comments. Check back with us and we will post more tips as we explore more!
We are living in exceptional and unique times. Those who embrace and adapt to change will survive. Good luck to us all!
Eddie Stephens is a partner at Ward Damon and leads the Family and Marital Law department. He is a Board Certified Family Law attorney who specializes in high-conflict divorces. Most important to Stephens is litigating in a manner that minimizes the impact of divorce on children.
Caryn A. Stevens is a Partner at the law firm of Ward Damon in West Palm Beach, where she focuses her practice exclusively in the areas of marital and family law. Prior to practicing law, Caryn spent over 12 years working in the mental health and counseling fields, as a mental health counselor in private practice, as a counselor for the Department of Children & Families, and later as an Elementary School Guidance Counselor. Caryn is a graduate of Florida State University, where she earned her Bachelors degree in Psychology, and her Masters and Specialist Degrees in Counseling & Human Services. Caryn received her Juris Doctorate from Nova Southeastern University, and received pro bono honors for her volunteer legal work. In her prior work as a mental health counselor, Caryn has had the unique opportunity to assist thousands of children, families and couples through difficult life circumstances, which allow her to bring a unique and compassionate perspective to the clients she represents currently. Caryn is a current member of the Florida Bar Family Law Section, where she serves on the Children’s Issues Committee and the Domestic Violence Committee. Caryn also serves as the Treasurer of the Susan Greenberg Family Law Inn of Court of the Palm Beaches, and is a graduate of the Leadership Palm Beach County Class of 2019. Caryn is a native South Floridian, and currently lives in Palm Beach County with her Husband, and their adorable Mini Aussie.