The Challenges of Virtual Lawyering
We are more than a year into pandemic protocols of varying levels, and one thing that seems here to stay is a reliance on Zoom and other virtual technologies that let us connect from a distance.
That’s a good thing, right? We can get our work done, see people’s smiling faces, move things forward without having to leave our homes or risk getting sick. Great.
But at what cost?
I’m not sure this is due to the pandemic, but I’ve noticed lately that nobody looks in each other’s eyes anymore. There is no real eye contact. Did this occur because of Zoom, where you’re forced to look up at your webcam to come across as looking directly at someone when really you’re not?
Or was it already a habit that predates this unusual time?
Regardless of its origins, when we lose eye contact, we lose human connection.
Personally, while I appreciate all the possibilities that Zoom brings us, I find it distracting – I never know where to look. The mechanics of the technology make me feel more distant from my client, the other attorney, the judge, whoever is on the other end of the conversation.
That does not happen in court or in a conference room.
In those settings, not only can I see whether the other people are looking my way or at something else, I can feel their energy and the chemistry between us.
And so I began to wonder what our relationships lose, and society in general, when we are together less often, and rarely peering into someone’s eyes.
Looking directly into someone’s eyes is an intense, human connection. When people are testing credibility, they question why another person is always looking down or just can’t look you in the eye. Does this indicate they have a hard time being honest or revealing the truth?
Because if you can be secretly multitasking during a virtual meeting, not only are you not looking into someone’s eyes, your mind is somewhere else. Everything is lost.
And there is a chance this won’t get better if companies and professionals continue to work at home.
I’ve spoken to young professionals who think it’s ridiculous to have everyone in one physical place. There is something great about the freedom to work from anywhere, but there is merit in going to the office and not sitting home alone every day. People got dogs during COVID because they didn’t want to be lonely.
A hybrid might work, if during the time we spend in company with others, we really focus on connecting.
As for me, I prefer to meet with my clients and settle cases in person. I believe it’s the best way to know my sincerity, to feel comfortable with the person you’re counting on to see this process through. I owe it to my clients to be front, center, and attentive. And it’s only fair that everyone else involved in their case – judge, opposing counsel, and anyone else – is, too.
It’s easier for clients to obscure details and hide truths when you meet at a distance. I can’t do the case justice if I don’t know everything. We all win when we can truly connect at a deep and honest level.
Good work comes from real connections. In real-time. On a foundation of trust.