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The Bar Bulletin
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Aug. 6, 202005:10 AM EST

Lawyering in the Zoom era: Now is the time to adapt

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We have to do it, so let’s do it right.
James Poindexter

By James Poindexter • Delegal & Poindexter

While the novel coronavirus has created a global crisis that has disrupted every aspect of our lives, it also has forced the legal industry to engage in broader discussions about the implementation of new technology in the profession.

The Florida Bar has made technology a priority for a number of years, but the industry as a whole seemed slow to adapt.

Recently, it was announced that the 4th Judicial Circuit would participate in the Virtual Jury Trial Pilot Project. For many, such a proposition is daunting.

 While the needs of each case are different, lawyers should strongly consider participating in the program if they hope to get the judicial system back to “normal.”

In my practice, I have found attorneys to be skeptical of the use of Zoom in their practice. Instead of readily agreeing to virtual depositions to move cases forward, some lawyers are insisting on waiting until the pandemic subsides to resume litigation efforts.

Such demands are simply unworkable. While the pandemic shows no sign of slowing, the justice system has.

Our judiciary has quickly adapted to the use of phone or Zoom hearings. It is now on the lawyers to step forward and embrace new technologies in every aspect of their practices, including trials.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I have had the opportunity to engage in numerous depositions, hearings and a non-jury trial by Zoom.

While it took additional preparation and consideration to determine how we would virtually handle the witnesses and exhibits, I intend to continue to do so in order to move my cases forward.

In hopes of encouraging others to consider the use of Zoom, here are some tips:

• Coordinate with the witnesses ahead of time to ensure that they know how to use Zoom. You may even do a test run to ensure that the internet connection is stable, the voices can be clearly heard and there are no background distractions.

• When giving testimony by Zoom, it is more important than ever that the witness wait for the question to be completed before he or she begins to speak. The court reporter, who also is appearing remotely, will thank you.

• Confer with the opposing attorney on exhibits ahead of time and prepare a single PDF document containing the bookmarked exhibits.

• Either send the PDF document to the witnesses before hand or use the “share screen” feature to exhibit the documents during the deposition, hearing or trial.

• If you are in an evidentiary hearing or a trial, be sure to review the circuit procedures page for your judge as some have provided information regarding his or her procedures for such proceedings.

• Providing your case law to the court and opposing counsel ahead of time will prevent wasting time and creating confusion during your hearings.

While we are in an adversarial profession, we are going to have to work together to ensure that we can continue to advocate for our clients’ interests in the midst of the global pandemic.

I am encouraged by the professionalism and civility we enjoy in the 4th Judicial Circuit. I hope that that tradition will be a guiding light for our profession as we continue to move our cases forward in the COVID-19 era. 

James Poindexter is a partner at Delegal & Poindexter P.A., where he specializes in labor and employment law and professional license defense. 

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