The COVID-19 pandemic has changed day-to-day life in innumerable ways, and the legal system has not been immune to these changes. Now, the majority of lawyers’ and judges’ work is conducted remotely, including hearings.
Although it varies widely from state to state, many jurisdictions are now holding hearings virtually, using video or telephone conferencing.
If you have a virtual hearing coming up, you may be wondering about how it will work and what you should expect. We’ve got some answers, and some tips on how to make sure your hearing goes smoothly.
Stay In Touch
If the court decides to hold a hearing that requires your virtual attendance, you will hear about it either directly or from your lawyer. The court will make sure you know the date and time of the hearing, and that you have everything you need in order to attend.
This means that you should be checking your phone and email accounts, including your spam folder. If you check often, you’ll have plenty of time to get prepared. And if you cannot attend the virtual hearing, the earlier you get in touch with the court to make alternate arrangements, the better.
What You Need To Go Virtual
Participating in a hearing held via video or telephone conference requires you to have the following:
- Quality internet access (download/upload speeds of at least 1.5 megabits per second)
- A phone, tablet, or computer with a built-in camera or microphone
- If your device doesn’t have a built-in camera or mic, an external camera or mic that can you can plug into the device
- The video/telephone conferencing app the hearing will use (the court should tell you which app to use and provide instructions on how to use it), already downloaded and set up. Zoom is popular, but you may use Skype or Google Meet, or one of many others
If you don’t have any of these apps, or aren’t sure how to set up or operate your device or the video conferencing app, it is imperative that you address this in advance of the hearing. Talk to your attorney and find out what your options are.
Preparing For The Hearing
If you want things to go smoothly, here are some things you should do:
- Situate yourself in a quiet space where you are unlikely to be disturbed
- Set up and test the device you plan to use before the hearing begins
- Follow court instructions and log in to the app with plenty of time to spare
- Once the hearing begins, listen carefully to the judge’s instructions on how the hearing is to proceed
What A Virtual Hearing Is Like
The short answer is that a virtual hearing is mostly just like a regular hearing. The judge is in charge, and all of his or her instructions should be carefully followed. The various attorneys and parties involved will speak, and at the end, the judge will decide what comes next.
Video or phone communication is obviously different than in-person contact, so on the technical side, you can expect a little bit of awkwardness. Accidental muting, people talking over each other, people temporarily losing connection, background noise — these are all annoying, but the hearing should still be able to proceed.
Hopefully things will return to normal soon. But for now, this is how we can make the best of it. So stay patient, stay in contact with your attorney, and good luck.