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12 Jun 2020

Best Practices for Law Firm Video Conferencing

Not long ago, video conferencing was a fancy, ultra-modern convenience. Now it’s a necessity for law firms and their attorneys.

And with the proliferation of online video conferencing services lately, most of us now feel somewhat comfortable in front of the camera. Gone are the days (hopefully) when a partner panic-calls you five minutes before a client meeting to ask how to turn their camera on.

As attorneys settle in to using video conference services in their daily workflows, it’s important to remember that, just as with any meeting, we must follow a few rules of video call etiquette (and common sense) before heading into the virtual meeting room.

Here are a few tips for attorneys looking to make the most of their video-conferencing experiences:

Your Firm’s Security and Integrity are Top Priorities

  • If you’re hosting the meeting, make sure that your meeting requires a password to enter. This may seem simple, but it’s an important step to ensure that your meeting doesn’t include any unwelcome participants.
  • If available, it’s a good idea to turn off any “join before host” option, so that participants (or potential intruders) cannot join the meeting before you do.
  • Many video conferencing tools feature a “lock meeting” option too. This stops new people from entering once a meeting has begun, even if they have the meeting ID and password. It’s a good idea to use it, as it can prevent distractions and unwelcome guests.
  • Recording the meeting? Be sure that you first gain the consent of participants. Some conferencing services populate a disclaimer on each participant’s window automatically—but don’t count on it, ask.

Make Sure Your Sound/Video Quality is up to Par

It’s a good idea to test your video and audio before the meeting. The last thing you want is fuzzy video or weird audio feedback interrupting an important conversation. It’s a good idea to invest in a quality microphone and headset. These are not absolutely necessary of course, but the enhanced sound quality will impart more professionalism. (And they’re not that expensive, either.)

Avoid Distractions and Respect Others’ Time

It can be difficult to find a completely quiet environment when working from home, so be sure to mute yourself when you’re not speaking. It’s also a good idea to turn off any social media distractions that may pop up on your phone or laptop. If you’re the one speaking, take time to think through your points beforehand so that you don’t eat up extra meeting minutes by rambling or going into unnecessary detail.

Be Professional

  • Look at the camera when you speak. It can be hard not to look at other participants (or even yourself) but looking at the camera will help people feel that you’re speaking directly to them, just as you would in person.
  • You don’t need to wear a suit to every meeting unless, perhaps, it’s a video deposition or court hearing. But you also shouldn’t look like you just rolled out of bed either. Take a few minutes to make sure you don’t have bedhead or spinach in your teeth before turning on your camera.
  • Make sure your camera is at eye-level. No one wants to be looking up your nose or at the top of your head. A poorly-adjusted camera can make you appear like you’re not tech-savvy—which is not a good look for anyone, much less a high-caliber attorney. Take the time to make sure your camera is properly adjusted.
  • Pay attention to your background. Look around before you jump on a video call—avoid a background with an unmade bed, a pile of laundry or an otherwise cluttered space. You want to give the appearance that you’re a professional who can be trusted with serious work, so be mindful of what other meeting attendees can see.
  • Similarly, avoid harshly backlit settings, including those with large windows behind you. Backlighting will make your image appear too dark, almost like you’re in a witness protection program. Lighting should be behind the camera whenever possible to ensure a clear, bright picture.

Not Every Meeting Needs to be a Video Call

Now that most attorneys are working remotely, it can be tempting to turn every meeting into a video meeting. But avoiding this temptation is important. Experts warn that something coined video conferencing fatigue is a very real thing, and that too many video calls can zap employees’ energy.

It is recommended to limit video calls to those that are necessary—and beyond that, turning on the camera at all should be optional.