Remote control

I’ll bet you dollars-to-donuts that, 20 years ago, when LegalZoom was established and they came up with that cool name, that no one in the room ever imagined that, someday, everyone would be doing tons of legal work… over Zoom.

I’m often asked if I can work remotely. Correction: I’m asked that question a lot less these days. It’s pretty much taken for granted.

So yes. Of course. I can, and do, work remotely, a lot. In the pre-pandemic days, I would meet with clients (women facing the financial hurdles of divorce) in my office, or with them and their attorneys, at their attorneys’ offices.

I can still do that kind of in-person meeting, subject to the safety protocols du jour.

Is one way of meeting better than the other? Let’s take a look at each—and how I can help you with your practice, either in-person or remotely.

Advantages of online

As I’d mentioned above, the novelty of Zoom (or, for the Arizona court system, Microsoft Teams) is gone. People aren’t camera-shy anymore; they’re used to it. Everyone has the technology—the screen, camera, and mic—built into their desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone. By and large, the technology just works: it’s stable and reliable, and easy to connect to.

If I’m in my office—and you’re in yours—everything is at our fingertips. If there’s some hard-copy document buried in my files that gets mentioned on the fly, I can just dive in and find it. Same for you.

And of course there’s the elimination of travel and its attendant expense. And by “expense,” it’s not just money. It’s time. Time spent traveling is unproductive. Online allows for a denser schedule, more billable hours for you—and more opportunities for me to help you and your clients.

Which gets to deadlines, urgency, and triage. You know how it works: The case in your calendar with the earliest deadline gets the most attention today. Similarly, the hurry-up phase of an approaching court date—or even five pm during a mediation—creates real urgency; as a CPA, I liken it to the way my work peaks each year around tax time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten the urgent call from a family-law attorney, who’s been huddling with their client, and realized they need to tap my expertise to help with a decision. “Can you hop on a quick call?” becomes so much easier online.

The disadvantages

Of course, the online world isn’t all sunshine and roses. Connections can fail. People can walk in and interrupt a video chat. The dog can bark at a FedEx arrival. There can be people in the room/in earshot, who don’t seem to be in the room, simply because they’re off-camera; that’s a privacy-assumption issue.

Even if you’re not the infamous Texas lawyer stuck looking like a cat in an Instagram filter, there are things about video chat that are just colder, and more distant.

Don’t you miss the coffee and donuts? Or what about those little whispered side conversations you can have, even when other people are in the room? (“I don’t think you have to take this offer,” or “I think he’ll go a little higher on the child support.”)

For me, I’m modeling financial pictures on my computer, on the fly, and I can’t show my findings to just you and your client if we’re on a big Zoom with the other party participating.

And then there’s that one substance that, in my observation, attorneys just love. Paper. To write on, to mark up, to hold. Who, after all, invented the legal pad?

Bottom line: No way of connecting is inherently better. And I can help you to maximize outcomes for your clients either way.

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