Why Zoom Is Here to Stay in Family Law

Zoom simplifies work, saving both time and money for attorneys, judges and clients, says Susan Myres, a board-certified family law attorney at Myres & Associates PLLC.

The past year brought remarkable changes to life as we know it. As the world suffered under COVID-19, whole swaths of the economy were locked down, forcing people and businesses to adapt to a radical “new norm.” Perhaps one of the biggest successes during the pandemic era has been the adoption of Zoom by the legal field.

Zoom Video Conferencing, or simply “Zoom,” advertises itself as “… the leader in modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for video and audio conferencing, chat, and webinars across mobile, desktop, and room systems.”

After a rocky start, attorneys, clients, judges, consultants, legal support staff, etc., seem to have mastered the technology and embraced it, says Susan Myres, a board-certified family law attorney at Myres & Associates PLLC.

Zoom simplifies work, saving both time and money for attorneys, judges and clients, says Myres.

“I’ve been paying attention to any type of webinar where it talks about Zoom processes, especially from judges where they are asked where they see this going, and across the board, even those who are technologically troubled—they see a great benefit for their staff, lawyers, and especially for the public to be able to do some of these things by remote access,” Myres said.

“One example is, we used to drag people down for proving up uncontested divorces, so for many months we’d fight for an agreement and then we’d get a 50-page agreement readied, so we dragged these poor people down to prove it up, which is like eight questions… yes, yes, yes, no, etc. … and the divorce was granted,” Myres said. “All of that can now be done by Zoom.”

“In fact, most of them in Harris County are now being done by affidavits so you don’t even have to show up in court and formalize it, because it’s just done remotely,” she said. “And I see that as continuing. Any type of hearing that is just argument of counsel, unless it contains a huge, voluminous set of exhibits, it makes very good sense to do it by Zoom, because then people aren’t traipsing down to the courthouse having to charge their clients for a lot of time while they are sitting around waiting. For those kinds of things, I think there is a great plus to it.”

Of course if your clients are not technologically savvy, there are several things they can do to ramp up for their first Zoom meeting or trial, says Myres:

  • Work with your attorney’s office. There are so many YouTube tutorials—watch at least two of them about how to look better on Zoom, because if your background or you are distracting, then we won’t hear your story, and you don’t want that. Do your homework at your attorney’s office with a staff member so you won’t be charged a lot of money for it, then talk it through by asking how does this work. When you are not on the witness stand, because there is no stand, what are you doing? You’re watching what’s going on—you’re not doodling, you’ve got your poker face on. In court you can kick them under the table or something to make your client stop doing something inappropriate, but when they’re on the screen, halfway across the country, you don’t have that luxury. Do at least one last rehearsal with your attorney so you at least get the flow.
  • Understand that when you are on a Zoom conference, you are never offscreen. The judge is looking at the gallery all the time, so the way you appear when the outrageous stuff comes from the other side is important. Be the mature person. Be the parent who knows how to take care of things when everything is going nuts.

Learning a new technology like Zoom, can be daunting, but not insurmountable, says Myres. She recommends that clients ask their attorneys several key questions:

  • Do I have the right equipment, and does it work?
  • Can you advise me on other equipment?
  • What about privacy? If you have children, there may be times when you will be in trial or meeting with your attorney and need to talk about them, and you don’t want them to hear. Needless to say, conducting a meeting with your attorney in Starbucks is a bad idea because you don’t have any privacy there.
  • Ask their attorney how comfortable they are having Zoom trials and how many they’ve had.
  • Ask them what alternatives they are prepared to provide for you besides litigation.

Susan Myres is a board-certified family law attorney at Myres & Associates PLLC. She has been practicing in Houston for over 35 years and has served in leadership positions locally, statewide and nationally. She is also the immediate past president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML).

Reprinted with permission from the March 09, 2021¬†edition of the Texas Lawyer © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. ALMReprints.com877-257-3382 - reprints@alm.com.