Should lawyers be offering virtual consultations because of the coronavirus?
Lawyers should be offering the videoconferencing opportunity to their clients and preparing their law firms for the Coronavirus
In efforts to slow the transmission of COVID-19 (coronavirus), many people have already started separating themselves from others through the practice of social distancing. It’s intended to restrict the spread of the virus when and where people get together, whether they’re attending classes, sporting events, civic meetings, religious services or even going to their place of employment.
For the time being, those who are distancing themselves socially are attending to many of life’s details online. What about meeting with a lawyer? Should lawyers be offering online videoconference consultations because of the coronavirus?
Lock the Door and Work from Home
That’s exactly what many lawyers and law firms are doing in response to the spread of the coronavirus. Some have even begun advertising this online. That’s because both lawyers and support personnel are compelled to work remotely as firms across the United States are at least temporarily shutting their offices down. Other firms, both large and small are getting their ducks in line to do the same thing. Check out this attorney who is offering online personal injury consultations in Philadelphia.
It’s Convenient and Safe
One way that videoconferencing can operate in the best interests of small law firm attorneys and prospective personal injury or criminal defense clients is in the context of initial client conferences. The attorney and potential client save on travel time, gas and parking fees. Clients are more likely to show up and be on time for a videoconference too. It’s perfectly safe, and it’s about the closest thing to an actual personal meeting that prospective clients and attorneys can have. They need only to walk into another room.
Nobody worries about shaking hands, coughing, sneezing touching surfaces or even breathing the same air either. If state and local rules permit, and the opposing attorneys have a relatively simple infrastructure, depositions can even be taken through videoconferencing. There’s really nothing mystical about it. Court reporters are way ahead of most attorneys in that context. Just ask one. He or she would be pleased to give you a road map. Videoconferencing operates in its best interests too.
Disadvantages of Videoconferencing
Whether it’s a potential client or a video deponent, videoconferencing has its disadvantages too. That prospective client or deponent is reduced to a depersonalized talking head. In a courtroom, from the moment that a plaintiff leaves the counsel table to take the stand to testify, or a witness enters a courtroom to do so, that individual is being assessed by a jury. Fumbling and twiddling fingers can’t be seen on video. Neither can nervous knee-knocking or foot shaking.
That body language is central to judging the credibility and demeanor of a witness. For all that anybody knows, the prospective client or even the deponent in a videoconference or deposition could be testifying in their underwear, and nobody would even know. Personal face-to-face meetings allow lawyers a better opportunity to assess the credibility and demeanor of a potential client or witness. It’s also far easier for the attorney to review any reports, documents, bills or photographic evidence.
Indeed, lawyers should be offering the videoconferencing opportunity to their clients and preparing their law firms for the Coronavirus, especially in this day and age. Lawyering is a very personal business. Regardless of an attorney’s reputation in the professional community, another one might be hired because his or her personality clicks with that of the potential client. If that potential client wants a videoconference rather than an in-person initial consultation, be prepared to provide it.
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