Best Practices for Virtual Meetings

 

Virtual meetings are here to stay for the foreseeable future. How can you get the most out of these remote conversations? Are there etiquette rules? Here are some pointers curated from around the Web.

Learn the technology beforehand

Nothing is worse than being on an audio or video conference call and hearing background interruptions or the sound of someone keyboarding, eating, or talking to someone in the room.

Before the meeting begins, learn how to (a) mute and unmute yourself; (b) test your camera; (c) test your microphone; (d) frame your video; (e) Enable a virtual background if offered by your video conferencing app; and (f) avoid using a mobile device. Go with a laptop or desktop computer instead.

As NW Sidebar points out, if your phone isn’t on a stable surface, the sound of it sliding around will be annoying. So are your alarms and notifications – although that may happen on your laptop or desktop too.

I would add: (g) mute or apply DND (do not disturb) to anything and everything you can – landline, mobile phone, tablet, etc. (h) treat the conference call as you would treat an in-person client meeting. Don’t permit interruptions and give the conversation your undivided attention. (i) Consider investing in a headset for comfort, convenience, and improved sound quality.

Give video calls a break

As many have suggested, not all meetings need to be face-to-face video. Simply picking up the phone works well for most clients. Don’t feel pressured to Zoom just because the Internet went wild over it. (More below.) A telephone call is convenient, cost-effective, and hassle free.

Message privately

During a group video conference call it can be challenging to have a side conversation with one person. Private messaging is the solution. Obviously, this feature needs to be available in your video conferencing app. In addition, you should choose an app with appropriate security if you are discussing client matters.

Use networking platforms

If you’re seeking to connect to other professionals, don’t forget about LinkedIn. If you are on social media, use the tool of your choice to reach out. If you belong to an OSB listserv, remember that listserv conversations are public record. When you see an interesting thread, keep your communication private by sending a direct email to that individual. In the right situation, it could make sense to launch a conversation with a group of listserv members – just remember to do it outside the listserv itself by sending separate messages. As noted above, the phone is also your friend. Use it to catch up with an old acquaintance or contact someone new.

Best practice tips on video client meetings

From the Law Society of BC:

  1. Advise the client not to share the links with anyone else;
  2. Access the links through a secured Wi-Fi network;
  3. Confirm the client’s consent to proceed in this manner;
  4. Ask that all individuals in the remote location introduce themselves;
  5. Ensure no one else is at the remote location who may be improperly influencing the client;
  6. Make sure that audio and video feeds are stable and that you can hear and see all parties;
  7. Do not allow clients to screen share by default. As the host you should be able to manage the screen sharing;
  8. Do lock the meeting once the client or clients have joined the call;
  9. Where identification is produced to support verification of identity, ensure that a copy of the document (front and back) is sent to you in advance of the online meeting (consider requesting high resolution) and that when it is produced during the meeting the entire document is visible and legible;
  10. Determine how to provide the client with copies of the document executed remotely;
  11. Confirm your client’s understanding about the documents they are executing and provide adequate opportunity for them to ask questions during the video conference; and
  12. Maintain detailed records including: date, start and end time, method of communication, identity of all present, and minutes of content of meeting. Read more here.

Alternatives to Zoom

The world seemed to go Zoom crazy during stay-at-home pandemic orders. I love Zoom – and p.s. – with its new privacy and security features meeting hacks no longer occur. However, if you’re looking for alternatives, check out this list from Business Today. Several of the options mentioned in the article are encrypted, a must-have for client confidentiality.

All Rights Reserved 2020 – Beverly Michaelis

On-Demand Office Space

Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

There are many options when it comes to on-demand office space. You can rent a conference room or a private office to limit access from other people. Or you can work in a row with other remote employees. Attorney Yuriy Moshes offers a few things to consider when choosing flexible office space.

On-Demand Office Environments for Legal Business — NWSidebar

 

In his NWSidebar post, Moshes gives four solid reasons to consider flex or co-working space: privacy, safety, convenient working conditions, and most importantly: big savings. When evaluating your options, Moshes suggests focusing on location and networking potential. Private space is key, both for client confidentiality and proper social distancing. Read the full post here.

Flex Space in Oregon

I last wrote about flex space three years ago. As I mentioned then, there are free and low-cost options statewide and in the Portland Metro Area. COVID-19 has affected some, but not all meeting sites.

Closed

The Oregon Lawyers’ Conference Room in downtown Portland is a free meeting space courtesy of the PLF and Oregon Attorney Assistance Program. Due to COVID-19, it is currently closed, as are the OSB Center meeting rooms.

Open

Alternatively, the MBA Conference Room is open for MBA members. Contact the MBA for details and availability at 503.222.3275 or mba@mbabar.org. Remember to download and submit the MBA Conference Room Use Form as part of your reservation.

Outside PDX

The PLF historically maintained a list of  “Oregon Meeting Rooms” on its website. When the Oregon Lawyers’ Conference Room was up and operating, this resource was on the same page, under the heading “Other Options for Meeting Space – Metro Area | Statewide.”  With the joint PLF/OAAP closure notice, the link to the list is no longer there. If you’re looking for free or inexpensive meeting space outside the Portland metro area, contact the PLF practice management advisors or other PLF Risk Management employees and request a PDF of this resource. It will be critical to call in advance as not all meeting rooms may be open.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

Should You Be Using Grammarly?

Do you rely on Microsoft Word’s grammar check to clean up your writing? You may want to make the switch to Grammarly, the online writing assistant.

Grammarly promises to help you write mistake-free in Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and any other app you use including text messages, your browser, and Microsoft Word. The basic version is free, with premium plans starting at $11.66 per month.

Security and Client Confidentiality

Grammarly data is encrypted and stored in the United States on a private, secure network. As to data access and client confidentiality:

Grammarly has a set of policies and technical controls that prevent employees from accessing customer data that is stored or processed by Grammarly systems. Where appropriate, Grammarly uses private keys and restricts network access to particular employees.

While Grammarly may track anonymized, aggregate statistics by website domain, Grammarly doesn’t collect browsing history from specific users while they browse the web. Information such as web server access logs or IP addresses is collected only for a limited time and only to provide specific services to the user, such as fraud prevention.

How Does Grammarly Work?

To learn how Grammarly works, we turn to Ayesha Siddiqua from Blogging Filter. Ayesha’s post covers all the details, including features, benefits, platforms, and plan specifics.

‘To err is human,‘ and that’s where the need for grammar checker tool emerges. I have curated this review post to let you know all about Grammarly, …

Grammarly Review: Is It the Best Grammar Checker Tool

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis

Confidentiality Still Applies When Rebutting Online Reviews

We’ve chatted before about online reputations and how to respond (if at all) to negative online reviews. Defending yourself is a natural reaction, but usually the wrong call as an Oregon lawyer recently discovered.

In a case now on appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court, an Oregon lawyer was suspended for 30 days for revealing a client’s identity and the details of his criminal conviction in response to negative online reviews.

Isn’t it Self Defense?

We don’t really know.

The trial panel did not consider the “self-defense” exception to Oregon RPC 1.6, finding the lawyer did not show that the details contained in his rebuttal were “reasonably necessary” to reveal.

The bar argued the “self-defense” exception applies only to formal proceedings, such as responding to a legal malpractice claim or bar complaint.

Read the full post on NW Sidebar.

What We Do Know

  • The identity of your client is confidential.
  • Revealing details about a case can be equivalent to revealing the client’s name in a universe where people can follow the dots.
  • If you engage online, the fuel you add to the fire will likely push the negative post upward in search results.

What You Should Do

Going back to my post from 2017, here are some suggestions:

  • A reasonable and measured response is key. Blasting people who give you a negative review is not a good business model.
  • You can try contacting the review site and asking for the review’s removal if you can prove the review is false, defamatory or written by a competitor. In the case described above, the lawyer contacted Google, Yelp, and Avvo to have the negative reviews removed. All three sites refused, telling the lawyer they considered the reviews the former client’s personal opinions. In another instance, the Washington Court of Appeals refused to force disclosure of an anonymous online reviewer’s identity. See Thomson v. Jane Doe, 189 Wn. App. 45, 356 P.3d 727 (2015).
  • You can respond directly to the review on the site. Be courteous and explain that due to your duty of confidentiality, you can’t address the facts of the complaint, but that you do not believe it presents a fair and accurate portrayal of the events. Make clear that you are always available to meet with former clients and address any concerns they may have.
  • If possible, try to contact the reviewer directly and seek to ameliorate the situation or explain to them further why the representation unfolded as it did. If this is successful, don’t hesitate to ask for an updated review.
  • Try to avoid further negative reviews by soliciting client feedback directly as the representation continues and in exit interviews. Try to give your clients every opportunity to air their grievances with you and your firm directly so they don’t have the need to vent in public.
  • Lastly, the best antidote to a negative review is positive reviews. Keep your profile updated and facilitate the opportunity for your other clients to post their own satisfied reviews.

We’ve all heard the old saw, grow a tough skin. If you’re a lawyer, it better be twice as thick as everyone else’s.

All Rights Reserved 2020 Beverly Michaelis