Navigating the Attorney-Client Relationship with Technology

 

As we all wait to see what comes next with COVID-19 as cities temporarily ban the gathering of large groups, entire businesses close down their physical locations and set their workers up remotely, entire school systems come to a halt, the NBA temporarily suspends its season, and many panic and rush to buy bottled water and toilet paper, many lawyers have questions about the effects of not just the possibility of contracting the virus but how the information overload and misinformation itself may affect the attorney-client relationship.

 

Related: Attorney Client Relationships 101

Technology is part of our daily lives as professionals. It’s part of the lives of the clients served by lawyers. So, how can lawyers use technology to manage and maintain the attorney-client relationship during the fears of COVID-19 and maybe even beyond?

Start with Technology You Know How to Use

You don’t have to invest a lot of money or frustrate yourself (or your clients) because of a difficult learning curve by choosing to implement a difficult solution. For now, you can start with technology that you know how to use and that your clients likely also know how to use. You can consider:

  • Skype for videocalls. Instead of meeting in person, which could potentially endanger any clients you have who struggle with a weakened immune system or even endanger yourself if you have a weakened immune system, you can rely on Skype. Skype is free. It can be installed on a desktop, a laptop, or even a cell phone. You can call Skype-to-Skype for free. That is, you can video chat another Skype user without calling their phone or without them needing to call your phone and rely on your web cam or your front facing camera on your cell phone. If you’re using your cell phone, use a tripod for it so that your hands are free to take notes.  You will still set up an appointment just as you would for in-person consultation. Before the appointment time, send your client an email and remind them that the appointment will take place over Skype and to use headphones with a microphone to help protect their privacy. With many people self-quarantining and working from home, this is an extra step you can take to help support the attorney-client relationship as well as your client’s privacy.
  • Zoom for videocalls. Zoom is another option that you can use for videocalls. While Zoom is free, to have a videocall that is longer than 15 minutes, you will need to upgrade to a paid account. A paid account is a reasonable $15 per month for online meetings. You can even record your videocall although you need to check your state guidelines about doing so first. You can send clients a link to register, “lock” a meeting to prevent others from entering, and more.
  • Google Hangouts. If you have GSuite for your email, you also have a nicer version of Google Hangouts. You can schedule meetings through your Google Calendar and send your client an invitation directly to their calendar. In a pinch, you can also just choose to start a meeting and give them the link to join. Much like with Skype, you’ll want to remind the client to use headphones and a microphone to help them protect their privacy.

Consider Using Legal Tech to Support the Attorney-Client
Relationship

While relying on tech solutions you already have available that are free or low cost, you can take your time to decide which features in legal tech solutions would best support the attorney-client relationship. In addition to the ability to engage in secure messaging, you’ll want the ability to exchange secured files, send invoices, receive payments, and possibly even manage your calendar and email list. With the number of law office management solutions available, there’s something out there for every practice.

As you make your decisions, the main way you can support the attorney-client relationship is to stay in contact. Pick up the phone and call if you say you will call. Return the messages that are left for you. Send emails explaining to your clients what your policies are regarding in-person appointments and what, if anything, you will do if clients request an alternative way to meet or if you are suspending in-person meetings with the exception of court dates. Don’t leave your clients in the dark. They look to you for leadership.

The post Navigating the Attorney-Client Relationship with Technology appeared first on Ethics and California State Bar defense lawyer Megan Zavieh.

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