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

Support Your Local Bar Association

If you’re newly admitted, recently moved, or just transitioned to private practice the best way to get connected to your new community is to join the local bar association.

A quick visit to the Oregon State Bar website reveals that not all local bars are active at this time, but don’t despair.

If your local bar association is up and running

Join!  Attend events, including social gatherings and CLEs. Get involved and meet local judges and practitioners.

If your local bar association is inactive

This is your golden opportunity to get it up and running.

  • Hold an open house at your office
  • Organize and deliver a CLE
  • Host an after-hours social event
  • Invite locals to a no-host coffee hour at a local business
  • Organize a themed lunch gathering where attendees share tips on marketing, technology, or other relevant subjects

Don’t let inertia prevail – find ways to connect!  Get started by introducing yourself to the local judiciary and courthouse staff.  Visit local law offices (if geographically feasible). Otherwise, make calls and send emails or even letters.

One easy way to find other lawyers in your area is to access the Member Directory PDF behind the secured login on the OSB website.  Listings of lawyers organized by city begin on page 278.  Take note that the directory does not include the latest contact information.  Another option is to search by city using the online directory. 

Given your objective, you should also consider contacting Member Services at the OSB.  They may be willing to pull a current list of attorneys by county or city for you.

Local bar associations offer many advantages

  • Community
  • Networking
  • Local cost CLE
  • Member benefits
  • Volunteer opportunities
  • Connection to the local judiciary (for discussion/resolution of practice issues in the judicial district)
  • And more!

Join started today!

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2017

Choosing a Practice Area

Last week I made an impassioned plea encouraging you to create a business plan.  A big part of the planning process involves selecting an area (or areas) of practice. Sounds easy enough, but is it?

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Don’t Choose a Practice Area Because…

Someone else said you’d be good at it, a law professor recommended it, everyone else is doing it, or family members and other influencers practice in the area.

Think About the Kind of Clients You Want to Represent

This step is often overlooked, but deserves your consideration.  Take time to reflect on who you want to serve, rather than what you want to do.

  • Do you want to represent businesses or individuals?
  • Start-ups, small family operations, or evolving companies who might need help with mergers and acquisitions?
  • Individuals?
  • Low income or high income?  Elderly? Young? Vulnerable?

Consider Client Characteristics

While it is possible for any client to display these characteristics, they do appear more frequently in certain areas of law:

  • Emotional (angry, fearful, crying, upset) – Family law, criminal law
  • Impaired or mentally ill – Family law, juvenile law, criminal law, poverty law
  • Distressed – Family law, criminal law, poverty law, personal injury, workers’ compensation, social security disability, products liability
  • Confused – Elder law, estate planning, probate, poverty law
  • Vulnerable – Elder law, juvenile law, family law, criminal law, poverty law
  • Demanding – business law, corporate, real estate, intellectual property

Do You Naturally Lean Toward Litigation or Transactional Work?

If you like ever-changing clients, taking risk, working under pressure, and constant challenge > you may be better-suited to litigation.

If you prefer working with repeat clients, minimizing risk, a steady workflow, and predictability > you may be better-suited to transactional work.

Let’s Play Match Game

What is your tolerance level for working longer hours?  Dealing with gray areas of law, high stakes, or deadlines?  These can also influence a practice choice.

Long Work Days

Working longer hours is often associated with family law and criminal law where emergencies occur in the evenings and on weekends.

Gray or Concrete?

If you don’t mind dealing in gray areas, family law, litigation, trusts, estate planning or immigration may be good choices.  If you prefer things to be more concrete, then consider regulatory law, tax law, or administrative law.

High Stakes

The stakes are higher in criminal law, immigration, and family law.  You will need a reservoir of resilience to practice in these areas.

Deadline Driven

Arguably, this is just about every area of law but litigation reigns supreme when it comes to deadlines.  If you are organized, manage workflows well, and have good time management skills you’ll do well in litigation.

Other Stuff

I should also forewarn you that any area of law where your fee is contingent, like personal injury, means an unpredictable pay day.  Honestly assess whether this is something you can handle financially.

The Informational Interview is King and Queen

Doing informational interviews with other practitioners in an area of law that interests you is – without a doubt – one of the best ways to narrow down your list.  Not sure who to approach?

  • Ask for referrals or suggestions from your first level contacts – people you know personally.
  • If your first level contacts don’t know anyone in the area(s) of law that interest you, ask them for names of other lawyers who might know a practitioner in that area.  Keep asking and pursuing leads.
  • If you don’t know anyone who knows anyone who might know someone who practices in an area that interests you, start reaching out to known experts.  Bar groups – state, local, and specialized – are organized into sections and committees, usually by different areas of law or subspecialties of law.  Who are the leaders of those sections and committees?  Who speaks at CLEs for the various bar-related groups?  Who writes articles in bar group publications? Who writes chapters for OSB BarBooks?

A Formula For Cold Calling

There is an art to cold calling.  (And by the way, a call is generally better.)  Here are the steps:

  1. Do your homework first.  Visit the interviewee’s website.  Look her up on LinkedIn or other social media sites.  Run a Google search.  Read what she’s written.
  2. Review steps three through six below.  If you find cold calling intimidating, rehearse a few times before you pick up the phone.  This will be helpful if you end up leaving a voicemail.  Better to spend time practicing beforehand than to fumble and mumble in your recorded message.
  3. When you reach out, be clear from the beginning that you are not seeking a job and this is not a request for a job interview.  Rather, you are interested in the area of law the interviewee practices and would like to learn more.
  4. Briefly explain why you are reaching out to this particular interviewee. For example, you read her article in the Bar Bulletin, noticed she spoke at at CLE, saw that she wrote the chapter on XYZ for BarBooks, etc.  (To state the obvious, this is where the homework comes in.)
  5. Be respectful of the interviewee’s time.  Spending 60 minutes with your subject would be optimal, but may not be possible.  Let the interviewee know that you are looking for 30 to 60 minutes of their time and stick to whatever time limit you agree upon.
  6. Consider extending a breakfast or lunch invitation. Everyone has to eat.
  7. Prepare for your informational interview.  If necessary, repeat step one in greater depth.  You should come to the meeting with a list of questions you would like the interviewee to answer.  In fact, you may want to have some questions written down before you even pick up the phone and extend the invitation.
  8. Send a handwritten thank you note by postal mail after your meeting.

If you encounter a gatekeeper – receptionist, paralegal, assistant, secretary – bend over backwards to be polite, thank them for their time, and do your best to leave a complete, but brief message.  Make sure the gatekeeper understands you aren’t cold-calling for a job interview.

You might wonder:  why can’t I just shoot off an email?  You could.  And it may work. But remember: your interviewee is busy and already buried in email.  Your message may not get read or may get caught in the spam filter.

Experience shows that calling and following up by mail is more effective.  Both are more personal than email and require more effort – which doesn’t go unnoticed. Calling means the staff person or lawyer to whom you speak can hear your tone of voice.  Your gratitude and appreciation come across in a way that email can’t match.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2017

Postscript

What should you do if you leave a message and don’t hear back?  Don’t be discouraged. The majority of people you reach out to will be gracious and understanding.  Move on to someone else in the same practice area.

Social Media Bill Passes Oregon Senate

Today the Oregon Senate passed HB 2654B which would forbid employers from demanding access to potential employee’s social media accounts. Read the full story at KATU. Maryland started the trend, which has spread to other jurisdictions. Twenty eight states are entertaining similar legislation.

For a related discussion, see this post.