If your clients were looking forward to putting their legal issues behind them with post-New Year’s jury trials, you’ll need to break it to them that trials have been suspended – again.
Chief Justice Harold Melton of the state’s Supreme Court credited the recent surge in Georgia’s COVID cases with the unexpected and indefinite pause, which is expected to last through at least February. He had warned attorneys in early December when trials were restarted after a previous suspension that if COVID cases escalated, another suspension was likely.
If you are frustrated with this most recent pause, consider your clients who are already on pins and needles. With a slow rollout of the vaccines and herd immunity far in the distance, expect video proceedings to become de rigueur as we protect everyone from each other.
By now, attorneys know how to use reliable high-speed Internet access, proper lighting and echo minimization to navigate video proceedings. However, that knowledge is mere “table stakes” in the online legal era. Now that the technology has been handled, you need to focus your attention on the most important element in the mix: you. Video proceedings require you to slow yourself and the entire legal process.
Consider these four tips before entering your next video arena:
- Identify yourself before speaking, intentionally pause and speak slowly to avoid the dreaded audio delay and command online attention.
- Make your questions short and deliberate to solicit a single fact at a time.
- Try not to allow witnesses to offer explanations.
- Use documents liberally as a way to focus witnesses and elicit admissions.
Attorneys in Georgia may feel they are doing a legal “Hokey Pokey” during COVID-19, and that feeling is warranted as things change on the fly. Everyone in the legal system will need patience and flexibility to make it through these next few months.