While news of the Cat Lawyer spread some much-needed laughter throughout the nation, other stories of virtual improprieties during courtroom hearings have not been so forgiving. The issue of decorum during virtual hearings continues to arise, causing concern over traditional notions of appropriate, courtroom conduct. Lawyers and clients alike should be reminded that a hearing, whether in-person or virtual, requires the same level of seriousness.
Preparing for a virtual hearing from the comfort of your home requires some additional considerations. For example, you should be dressed appropriately (and fully), as if you were presenting yourself in the courtroom. Find a quiet and secluded area in your home to set up your computer. Be aware that only the people allowed to be present should be seen during the hearing—that means that family members, friends, pets, or anyone else not involved should not be in the same room as you, nor should they be within hearing range. Notwithstanding, everyone should also be more patient and understanding when unexpected situations arise, for example, if a child appears, barking is heard, or someone’s internet is unstable.
When it comes to your background, be mindful of what can be seen by others attending the hearing. A neutral and professional background is ideal. While it should go without saying, make sure that nothing inappropriate or illicit is viewable.
Finally, become a master of the mute button. Know when you are muted or unmuted so that you can be heard ONLY when it is your time to speak. Remember, even if you are muted, you are still visible. Pay attention to what is going on during the hearing because everyone attending, including the judge, will be paying attention to you. During a virtual hearing, you want to be both respected and respectful, but that can be difficult if you or the other attendees do not treat the hearing as if you were face-to-face.