The coronavirus pandemic has brought a lot of changes for everyone in the past year and the change in people’s working environment is surely near the top of the list. Meetings on Zoom have replaced meetings in the office.
Lawyers accustomed to in-person sessions with clients have had to learn a whole new set of rules for how to conduct a meeting. Internet etiquette—“netiquette” if you will—has already been developing for 2 decades and now it has a whole new dimension.
In this new world, what is netiquette for lawyers on Zoom?
Start with introductions
If your meeting is with multiple people, make sure to do the introductions the same way you would in person. Even though everyone’s name is at the bottom of their Zoom screen, it’s still a good idea to do a formal introduction.
Regarding that name: make sure your own name is professional—not all lowercase letters or a nickname or anything other than your first and last name, properly capitalized at the beginning.
Presuming you are the host of the meeting, you have the power to edit everyone else’s name. Do it. It looks more professional if you’re meeting with “John Smith” rather than “John’s IPad” or “johnsmith.”
Consider your background
We know (and your clients surely know) that not everyone’s home workspace is going to be as spiffy and professional as the office. That doesn’t mean there has to be a pile of laundry behind you. Take a look at your background and make sure you’re comfortable with it on a professional level. Having your law degree and some good law books behind you won’t hurt either.
We would also suggest steering clear of the fake backgrounds that have become popular on Zoom, unless there’s one that’s really professional and really fits the theme of the meeting.
No pets, kids or food
The rule itself sums it up pretty quickly. Keep the dog in another room, make sure the kids know you’re on a meeting and don’t eat lunch during your Zoom conference, even if it’s 1 p.m. and you’ve been on calls non-stop since 9:30.
Having said that, while you should strive to meet the highest possible standard for yourself, also strive for the highest level of patience with others. If the client needs to eat lunch, let them. If someone’s pet is in the room, don’t make a big deal out of it, unless it’s a barking dog that’s disrupting everyone else.
If your own kids let you down and interrupt? Don’t let any embarrassment lead you to blow it out of proportion. Just apologize to everyone and move the kiddos along. We’re all human and all working in some unusual situations. All you can do is your best.
The last year has given YouTube a lot of funny moments of “Zoom fails.” We’ve seen the guy who wore his underwear to a meeting and stood up before he was off-camera. We’ve seen the woman who mistakenly believed who video was turned off and went to the bathroom in the midst of a Zoom meeting.
Suffice it to say, becoming one of those moments won’t do a ton for your credibility as a lawyer. So if you feel the need to work in your underwear just to say you did it, please at least remember where you are. If you need a bathroom break desperately, just say so. Again, we’re all human. However, the world and your clients don’t need to see too much of your humanity.