COVID-19 has changed the way we work and live in unexpected ways and the legal system is no different. Although it varies widely from state to state, many jurisdictions are now holding hearings virtually, using video or telephone conferencing.
If you have a phone or conference call hearing scheduled, we have prepared this tip sheet to make sure your hearing goes smoothly,
WHAT YOU NEED TO ATTEND A VIRTUAL HEARING
Some hearings, such as Social Security Disability hearings in front of an Administrative Law Judge are conducted by phone. You have the choice to be on a conference call at the attorney’s office or join in from your phone in the privacy of your home. All you will need is a landline or cell phone.
Bankruptcy, Family and Divorce, Civil and Business Litigation as examples, are all being held via teleconference in South Florida and will remain so for a long time to come.
WHAT YOU NEED TO PARTICIPATE IN A TELECONFERENCE HEARING:
- A phone, tablet, or computer with a built-in camera and microphone.
- If your device doesn’t have a built-in camera and/or mic you will need to purchase an external one.
- The video/telephone conferencing app that the hearing office will be using. The court will notify you or your attorney which app to use and provide instructions on how to use it. Download it a couple of days before the hearing and do a test run, preferably with your attorney’s office. The court seems to prefer Zoom, WebEx, Skype or Google Meet.
- If you don’t know how to set these up, go to YouTube for simple tutorials.
- Quality internet access (download/upload speeds of at least 1.5 Megabits per second- you can check it here)
PREPARING FOR THE HEARING
- Set yourself up in a quiet space where you are unlikely to be disturbed.
- If this isn’t possible, use a headset or earbuds.
- Set up and test the device you plan on using before the hearing.
- Follow court instructions and log into the app with plenty of time to spare.
- Once the hearing begins, listen carefully to the Judge’s instructions on the hearing will proceed.
- I recommend muting the hearing, unmuting when you need to participate.
- Remember if you are on a video call that all the participants can see you (from the waist up if you remain seated) and behind you.
WHAT A VIRTUAL HEARING IS LIKE
The short answer is that a virtual hearing is just like an in-person hearing. The Judge is in charge and all of his or her instructions should be carefully followed. Follow your attorney’s instructions as you would if you were in court.
Technical issues will happen, people will get accidentally muted or lose connections, people will talk over one another, there will be background noise; these are annoying but remain polite and patient and let the attorneys and Judge’s staff deal with these interruptions.
Hopefully, things will return to normal. But for now, this is how we can make the system work. Stay patient, stay in touch with your attorney, and stay safe.