My, oh my, how things can change. Monday, May 18, 2020 — a point in time when COVID-19 forced the legal profession to truly cross over to the unknown.
Until recently, Mondays at the courthouse meant picking a jury. Only on this Monday, a Collin County court embarked on a jury trial using Zoom.
Boxes (like on the Brady Brunch or Hollywood Squares) filled computer screens of legal teams. A couple of months ago, I never heard of Zoom. Now, it is a verb, an adverb, and a company (Google… anyone?).
I spent a good amount of my career roaming the halls of courthouses. It takes time to know where to get the good parking space, which elevator never to get on, and the location of the bathroom that nobody knows about. It takes skill to comfortably bum a cup of coffee from the sacred pot in the court offices.
Even though I never intended to practice law in a courtroom, doing so has become a source of pride. This twist of fate provided unexpected benefits for me at a time when civil litigation moved away from the courtroom. But the “courtroom” as I knew it has changed in response to current circumstances.
What does the virtual jury trial mean for the trial lawyer and a litigation practice? I ponder if this system is more efficient
After all, while virtual hearings open up more time, perhaps it will lead to more hearings. No more traveling to the courthouse with the office in a box and go-bag of the day — hoping nothing was left at the office. No more sitting on horrible benches with aching feet while fighting dehydration.
But all that drudgery provided more time to interact with judges and court personnel, observe lawyers handling other cases. All of which helps a lawyer to hone their skills and benefit their clients. These slices of down time were not wasted hours.
Is the trial lawyer as we know it gone like the dictaphone? Yes, and maybe it is time. But the law is dynamic and it is moving rapidly to meet current conditions. Perhaps no opportunities will reveal themselves in ways we do not anticipate. So, embrace the change and be better at it than anyone else.