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Phone and Video Conferencing Tips and Etiquette

Lawyer working from home with laptop, tablet and headset
By Joseph Fawbush, Esq. on March 23, 2020 4:22 PM

All you need is a phone to participate in client meetings, depositions, ADR, mediation, oral arguments and a host of other essential work, including many court proceedings. However, that doesn't mean it will go smoothly, particularly at first, as everyone adjusts to this temporary new reality.

You have probably already noticed some unique challenges. Speaking and running a meeting over the phone does take some practice and forethought. Here are some key points to consider when conducting essential work tasks over the phone.

Be Patient and Prepared

At some point, you will have technical difficulties. On Friday, March 20, for example, the D.C. Circuit held oral arguments in a case about a Trump Administration health care rule. Judge Thomas Griffith, shortly into oral arguments, got kicked off and later noted that the situation was “kind of a mess." We feel you, Judge Griffith.

Depending on the control you have, there are a few things that can help. One is to set up early and have a designated person assigned to handle tech setup and troubleshooting. In addition to a dedicated tech support person, have someone monitor chat for questions and comments, if chat is an option. The point is to delegate as much of the technical issues as possible so that you can focus on content.

Watch for Interruptions

You can't have the same back and forth as you would in person. There may be a delay, for one thing, and you won't have the same body language cues to know when someone wants to speak. Running a meeting online requires clear breaks to allow for others to join in. Pause and ask if anyone has questions.

Be Organized and Brief

It is harder to keep an audience engaged by video and phone. You need clear organization, audio cues to transition, and remember to be as brief as possible.

Stand Up

Even if no one can see you, it is best to stand up during brief online presentations, particularly for something like an oral argument. Breathe deeply to project your voice. You also want to sound energetic to keep others engaged. These are both easier when standing up.

Remember to Mute

There's always someone who is unaware that every sound they make can be heard over a headset. If you are going to snack on potato chips over a lunch meeting, be sure you know where your mute button is – and that it's working. Otherwise, most video conferencing tools allow the organizer to mute others.

It Will Get Easier

There's a transition period to conducting meetings, client interviews, and other legal work over the phone. But it will become easier with use.

Related Resources

How Courts Are Handling COVID-19 (FindLaw's Greedy Associates)

Tips for Staying Productive When Working From Home (FindLaw's Strategist)

Essentials for Your New Home Office (FindLaw's Technologist)