The last year certainly has seen on-the-spot training for many when it comes to increased use in technology. As we spend our time working remotely, small law offices have begun to heavily rely on various online platforms to work with clients. Due to the nature of my business, it is more important than ever to address the needs of my clients carefully and thoughtfully.
Until COVID-19, most of my client meetings were in person, consistent with my training as a mediator and collaborative family law attorney. Back in March 2020, like so many others, I began having meetings from my home using video technology, such as Zoom and WebEx. My work with office administrative personnel changed from seeing each other daily and working together at the office, to checking in daily by phone and increasing the use of email.
As my online education progressed, I participated in a ten-day training and achieved Online Mediator Certification, which increased my skills in providing dispute resolution services to clients remotely. In addition, I created a private office in my home dedicated solely to remote meetings. As many of you may be experiencing, it is difficult to separate work from personal responsibilities while working from home, which is why I took a thoughtful approach to making the office as comfortable and productive as possible – with the needs of my clients in mind.
Overall, I focused on the following needs:
- Meeting the clients where they are in terms of readiness to use technology – camera for video, screen availability, internet access and strength, use of e-mail, phone, text, privacy in their homes – are spouse, children, or others in the home making it difficult?
- Be sensitive to the client’s personal space for the meeting and try to comfort and reassure the client, so the client is more comfortable meeting using technology.
- Establishing rapport and connection is critical where meetings are not in-person. Spend time checking in to see how the client is doing emotionally, physically, financially, with parenting/school stress, work stress, extended family, etc.
- A background for video conferencing that is suitable and serene. I prefer a live backdrop to a green screen.
- Communicate a back up plan if technology fails!
- Use of videoconferencing tools to make the meeting more private, ability to screen share, have break-out rooms, use the chat and mute features, etc.
- Multiple screens (this helped tremendously to be able to see a client on the screen and prepare minutes and/or review documents in the case at the same time).
- Add a desktop that converts from stand-up to sit-down with a quick release latch (helps with posture, movement, etc.) This type of desk also enables me to move around my office space easily when not in video meeting.
- Ability to set up lighting for videoconferencing.
- Headphones available as needed to tune out any background noise.
- Have important supplies and files in one room so there is easy access when working.
- I ramped up my efforts to reduce paper and save documents in my computer and the cloud and share handouts and links to clients through email and screen share instead of preparing a printed folder of items. The ecological benefits feel good in addition to less filing.
- Added some favorite books, collectables, and a new credenza that is visually appealing, so I enjoy my time in the space.
- During the workday I can break mid-day for exercise and fresh air and go for a walk with my dog, or a bike ride, enabling me to return to my office space feeling rejuvenated, even if it means I end up working later into the evening.
- Yoga on Zoom two days a week. Focusing on wellness during this pandemic is key to being able to continue to serve clients and maintain a balance.
- Close the door for privacy and quiet and exit when finish work in the evening and on the weekend!
The use of technology in client communications can truly yield positive results when being mindful of the client’s experience and needs. While keeping in mind the stress that a divorce client is going through, it is helpful to have systems in place to create as much comfort and efficiency as possible.
A sense of calm is a top priority.