With in-person gatherings at a standstill, the legal profession has been launched into the virtual world in many ways. Most law firms have adjusted to working, at least in part, remotely and courts have embraced the use of technology to some degree, in order to keep litigation moving along as much as possible. Clients aren’t popping into law offices and legal matters, like depositions, are being taken via Zoom.
But what about networking and other events your firm may have participated in under normal circumstances? Increasingly, the legal community is becoming involved in, or hosting, virtual events where in-person interaction simply isn’t possible because of the health risk the pandemic poses.
Here are 3 ways you can get involved in the up-and-coming virtual world and take advantage of the benefits it can offer.
- Webinars = Free Education
Many organizations are turning to webinars as the latest way to distribute their content and message. In order to build a following that they may not previously had, a variety of programs are being offered free of charge.
Take advantage of low, to no-cost educational webinar programs put on by your local or state trial lawyer organizations, legal vendors or associations that would typically host tradeshows and other in-person seminars. In some cases, you may even be able to earn CLE credit for attending. Many times, these webinars may feature guest speakers who are prominent figures in the legal community, willing to share their knowledge and advice to help bolster the plaintiffs’ bar, even while staying at home and social distancing.
On the flip side, you may be heavily involved in a certain litigation or practice area. Leverage that working knowledge to become recognized as an expert in the topic and seek out speaking opportunities on various webinars where you can share your insight and concurrently build your network. It may also bring the prospect of case referrals.
- Virtual Conventions
Everyone looks forward to the “big event” of the season, where you may travel to attend a large tradeshow or multi-day seminar for continuing education and a host of social events to interact with your peers. As those gatherings are currently on hold, some organizations are instituting virtual conventions to take their place.
Though nothing can truly replace face-to-face interaction, the virtual version of these events are the “new normal”—at least for now. Participating in a virtual convention can have its benefits, not the least of which is cost. You’ll likely still have to pay to attend, however the price is apt to be significantly lower than a traditional in-person event. In addition, the extraneous costs are eliminated: travel, lodging, meals and the obligatory bar tab aren’t part of the equation right now. This may afford you the flexibility to allow more of your associates to take part in the virtual event, or perhaps you can reallocate the savings to a sponsorship or private event when things return to normal and in-person conferences become permissible again.
There is also the time-factor to consider. With zero travel time and the entire convention available at your fingertips, you may feel more free to peruse legal vendors in the virtual exhibit hall, or have a quick chat with a company whose services you’ve been researching. In an online format, tasks such as these, don’t seem like such an undertaking when compared to the physical act of walking through rows of vendor booths and striking up face-to-face conversations that could last five minutes—or 35 minutes. Conventions being hosted virtually often offer many programs “on-demand” so that you can watch the content at a time that is convenient for you.
While a virtual event may not seem ideal—and certainly isn’t in some instances—there are benefits to be explored.
- Focus Groups
Focus groups provide an avenue through which trial lawyers can effectively “rehearse” before their trials in order to gauge reactions from a jury. This allows them to preemptively tackle challenges that may be on the horizon during the actual proceedings.
Luckily, the focus group is something that can be shifted to a virtual format fairly easily. Many legal vendors offer this service specifically tailored to the needs of trial attorneys and have been doing so pre-pandemic, so it’s not an entirely new concept. Though some aspects may be lost in digital translation, such as a focus group participant’s body language, it’s still a solid method for gaining feedback.
Focus groups can help identify areas of weakness in your case. They allow you to effectively conduct a “practice run” in presenting your case, before you get to the courtroom. You’ll be able to identify certain themes in your presentation that resonate with your focus group, which in theory may translate to your actual jury during the live trial as well.
As this concept was in existence prior to the global shutdowns, there are many service providers to choose from, if you should employ this tactic. Now more than ever, it’s imperative you’re in tune with how your jury will respond to your case, especially with a remote or virtual component likely to be in play as the court systems begin to reopen with safety measures in place.
Most will agree, nothing can replace personal interaction. However, in the interim while the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to be open to new ways of doing things that help to push the legal industry forward in a positive direction. Virtual events are just one small piece of a much larger puzzle and are almost certainly going to shape the way events are held in the future.