Category Archive: Remote Conference

Will Georgia Be The Next State to Hand Out Virtual Justice?

On Monday, Texas became the first state in the nation to present a trial before a virtual jury. The groundbreaking legal move follows Emory Law School’s jury trial class, which allowed its students to take its final exam via Zoom on April 17. Many Georgia counties have been using videoconferencing for their hearings since April, when the coronavirus pandemic necessitated the closure of the courts, with the exception of certain hearings and bond motions.

Emory Law School found that the trial by Zoom, with real judges and facts from an actual case, had real benefits. Objections were handled in a more orderly manner by raising “objection paddles.” The attorneys and judges could see themselves, which made everyone more self-aware of facial expressions. Sequestration was a cinch as Zoom allows you to place participants in a virtual waiting room with the push of a button. The same can be said of the judge needing a break, to confer with the bailiff or attorneys — simply push a button and the jurors are in the virtual waiting room.

Texas had more than 24 potential jurors log in, who were then guided on selection by two judges. Decades of potential jurors going to the courthouse were turned on its head as the courthouse virtually came to the jurors. As with depositions handled by Zoom, basic instructions were given about background noise and the need for privacy from the rest of the household.

In neither instance did videoconferencing have a negative effect on the proceedings. No technical hiccup was noted. In fact, Zoom capabilities gave all parties the convenience of doing their civic duty from home, without having to deal with morning traffic, the headaches of parking and the general stress and frustration of reporting to the courthouse.

While teleconferencing and videoconferences have been used for various proceedings, no Georgia court has yet announced plans for a jury trial by Zoom as of this date. However, we are clearly on track to follow Texas’ lead, at least with regard to its non-binding jury verdict.

To view a portion of Texas’ virtual jury trial, see this YouTube link.

For EGCR’s tutorial on Zoom meetings, see this YouTube link.

For tips on keeping your caseloads moving during COVID-19, see this article.

Remote Deposition Tips from a Court Reporter

 

Whether you are familiar or brand new to the concept, attending remote depositions has become inevitable. As judicial orders get extended due to concerns surrounding COVID-19, in-person depositions are happening less frequently, if at all. While the conditions may not always be ideal, see below for some tips to make your remote depositions run smoothly.

BEFORE THE DEPOSITION

Training. Familiarize yourself with the program you will be using: Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting, et cetera. Do a quick run-through ahead of time if possible.

Send exhibits beforehand. Sending emails and downloading exhibits during the deposition takes up time. If you send exhibits before you begin, this will make things easier on your court reporter. And don’t worry about marking exhibits. Your reporter can do that for you.

Arrive early. It helps to log in to the deposition 10 to 15 minutes early for troubleshooting or to introduce yourself and share contact information.

Internet connection. Be sure to use the best internet connection available. (Hardwire into your modem if possible.)

Charge your phone. Even if you do not plan on using your phone, make sure it’s fully charged. If something malfunctions with your laptop or tablet, you will have your phone ready to connect as backup.

DURING THE DEPOSITION

Go slow. It may seem awkward to pause after questions and answers, but now more than ever it is crucial that attendees do not speak over one another during the proceedings. This creates less interruptions by the court reporter for repeats and clarifications.

Close apps. Be sure to close any programs not needed as this will help your device’s connection.

Mute yourself. If you are not actively speaking, keep yourself muted. It helps immensely with the audio quality. If you need to object or insert something on the record, unmute yourself at that time.

Audio through your phone. There is an option through remote meeting platforms to use your phone audio (dialing in and enter your meeting information) in tandem with your computer. This will maximize clear audio.

Turning off your video. If your connection gets spotty, try turning off just your video. Oftentimes, that will clear up audio issues, and you will still be present.

Headphones. Using headphones or earbuds with a microphone helps isolate deposition audio.

Be patient and open-minded. Nobody anticipated we’d be working in a global pandemic. Things may go wrong, but there’s no need to get frustrated. Take a deep breath. We’re all learning!

Background. While on video, aim to sit in front of a plain area that is lit from the side or front. When seated in front of a window, please close the blinds. Sitting in front of a bright, open window makes it difficult for attendees to see your face on screen.

Breaks! Even though most of us are comfortably seated at home, be sure to allot time for comfort breaks.

AFTER THE DEPOSITION

Don’t rush to disconnect. The court reporter will likely have questions about signature, orders, or spellings. Be sure to ask before you hop off the deposition.

Talking afterwards. Please let the court reporter know if you plan to stay in the remote meeting and speak with your client. This way the court reporter will leave the meeting instead of ending it altogether.

If you are holding remote depositions, hopefully these tips will help. Many elements that appear to be challenging just take a little time and practice. If you have questions, be sure to ask the reporter or agency hosting the deposition. Please know that court reporters appreciate you and appreciate your business!

For further information and tips, please check out Elizabeth Gallo Court Reporting’s tutorials on YouTube.

Making Your Remote Office a Success

With the unique challenge of working and keeping businesses going during COVID-19, having a remote office has become our new normal but it can still be an unknown, possibly even stressful, factor amid these disruptive and uncertain times.

It’s more important now than ever to keep your mental and emotional well-being in check, as well as that of your employees and staff.

SET SCHEDULES 

Keeping a regular, and realistic, schedule is vital. Plan your day as if you were in the office with a start time, lunch time and quitting time. Make sure you allow technology-free time to pamper yourself, whether that’s reading a book, working on a jigsaw puzzle or a soothing bath.

HAVE A DEDICATED WORK SPACE

You don’t need a room specifically for your home office but find space that is to be your work area during work hours. This can be a corner in your bedroom, living room or on your kitchen table. Tell your family this is your work area during your scheduled work times. After hours, it can go back to its intended use.

GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK 

Working from home doesn’t (and shouldn’t) mean parking yourself at your desk 24-7. Your mind and body need breaks throughout the day so be sure to take them, preferably every 30 to 60 minutes. It may be getting up to stretch for a few minutes or getting a glass of water. On phone calls, get in the habit of standing rather than sitting to keep that blood flowing.

BUT WATCH OUT FOR THOSE DISTRACTIONS!

Working from home can be wonderful (saving on gas and travel time with no commute and hey, you don’t even have to wear shoes!) but being at home can lend to a host of distractions. Don’t let your laundry, that Harry Potter marathon or social media impact your productivity.

STAY CONNECTED

That said, social media is a wonderful way to keep in touch, not only with family but also co-workers. The office is not only a place to work but also a method to combat loneliness and isolation. Working from home, especially for extroverts, can create anxiety. So check in with your co-workers, not just to discuss work-related matters but also fun things, like sharing recipes and family and pet photos.

AND GET FRESH AIR

Fresh air and sunshine are a necessity. With fewer people driving, and warmer weather upon most of us, getting away from your desk, out the door and into the environment is fundamental. Not only will it invigorate you but will keep your immune system healthy.

SHARPEN YOUR SKILLS

If your workload is lighter than normal, it’s the perfect time to investigate some online courses that will improve your skills, raise the value of your expertise and give you continuing education credit. As a bonus, it also takes your mind off economic worries.

DON’T FORGET YOUR EMPLOYEES

If you’re in management, it’s imperative not to neglect your employees. Understand that they might be feeling anxious, overworked and even isolated. Make yourself available to address any issues they might have. Have regular meetings by video or phone to keep everyone up to date. Let your staff know the best way to reach you with questions or emergencies. Find out if your health plan offers support for insureds who may need it and pass that information along.

 

Lastly, smile and breathe!

Thank You!

While the world is going through this difficult time dealing with COVID-19, we wanted to take a moment to thank our clients for their continued support.  We really appreciate you!