top

For the Record

Practical tips for Zoom hearings from court reporters.

Written by Kristalee G. Mata

Bullock Law Schools


Zoom has revolutionized the practice of law. As we navigate this new way of working, however, some things remain the same—like the importance of making a clean, timely record. Here are some helpful tips from court reporters to ensure that your next Zoom hearing goes smoothly.



BEFORE THE HEARING

  • Check Your Wi-Fi: Remove obstructions like furniture or appliances that can block or weaken your Wi-Fi signal, check that you have sufficient capacity to run all the devices in your home or office, and protect your network with a password.

  • Invest in a Good Microphone: Computer headsets with microphones provide the best quality audio sound. Directional microphones, on the other hand, provide weak audio because they cannot amplify your voice when you turn to look at a document or question a witness.

  • Pre-mark and Electronically File Your Exhibits: E-filing your pre-marked exhibits, including demonstrative exhibits, enables the judge to share them on the Zoom screen so that all parties can refer to them simultaneously.



CLIENT AND WITNESS PREPARATION

  • Correct Name in Zoom Profile: Make sure that your client’s device reflects their correct name; you do not want “iPhone,” “Papi Chulo,” or “Killer” to make an appearance on the record (all true stories, by the way).

  • Check Your Client’s Wi-Fi Signal: If your client does not have access to stable internet service, ask them to park their vehicle at a good hot spot (like a public library or a Starbucks) to ensure that their signal does not freeze or drop during their hearing.

  • Log off From Other Applications: Remind your clients to log off from Facebook, Instagram, and other social media applications before logging on to Zoom—the chances of losing a signal increases if they are running multiple programs on their device.

  • Do a Trial Run: Troubleshooting issues prior to the hearing reduces the likelihood that the court will reset your hearing because your client is having technical issues.

  • Create a Zoom Checklist: Create a courtroom etiquette checklist you can email or text your client or witness before their hearing, with tips like staying mute until their case is called and to stop speaking when they hear the word “objection.”



DURING THE HEARING

  • Name and Cause Number in Zoom Profile: Listing your full name with your cause number, like “Kristalee G. Mata, CR-21-12345-E,” offers important information to all virtual docket participants—court reporters can identify the parties who are present and ready to appear and court staff can quickly access the e-filings in your case.

  • Use the Chat Feature to Report a Substituted Appearance: Court reporters suggest that sending a private chat message to them is a helpful way to let them know about an intended substitution that may not be reflected on the docket sheet.

  • Announce Yourself and Your Client: A clear announcement signals to the court reporter who will be speaking; otherwise, court reporters must visually scan dozens of boxes in the Zoom gallery to make that determination.

  • Additional People in a Zoom Box: If there is someone other than your client in the room with them, such as a legal assistant or interpreter, please ask that the person be identified for the record and placed under oath.

  • Tips for Questioning: Court reporters suggest it is ideal to have the attorney in one room and the client or witness in another so that each party can remove their masks to speak. When removing masks is not possible, however, reporters have noted that persons wearing N95 masks sound clearer and louder.



Zoom is more than likely here to stay. While the convenience of appearing in multiple courts and venues from the comfort of your home or office is a positive change, attorneys must do what we can to keep an accurate and clean record.TBJ

The author would like to thank Tina Fasci, Roland Quintanilla, and the Hidalgo County Court Reporters Association for their invaluable help on this article.





Kristalee MataKRISTALEE G. MATA
is a staff attorney at the 13th Court of Appeals in Edinburg.

{Back to top}

 

We use cookies to analyze our traffic and enhance functionality. More Information agree