So many business are virtual these days, but many are not and require in-person interaction. During this coronavirus crisis, all businesses are making adjustments to serve their clients and trying new things. Here is how one local business is embracing technology to keep their businesses moving and their clients served:
Sheryl Seiden, founding partner of Seiden Family Law, based in Cranford.
How has social distancing changed the way you conduct your business? Is video new to your business?
Social distancing has derailed family law practice. We can no longer meet with clients for face to face meetings, participate in in-person mediations, appear in court for conferences and motions and trials. The court system has effectively shut down to in person visitors except for extreme emergencies.
With COVID-19 upon us, we have to alter our practices and adjust to technology or the family law system may be inevitably delayed whereby families will continue to wait in limbo until such time as this pandemic is eliminated.
In order to try to continue to help families through the difficult times, Seiden Family Law is leveraging technology to help our clients. We are conducting consultations and meetings with clients via video conferencing. We are also assisting families and the court in mediating cases by using video conferencing.
We have the ability to create breakout rooms for one party and/his her lawyer to be able to caucus with each other and with the mediator. We are also using this opportunity to help our clients focus on the next steps in their litigation so they can use their downtime at home to try to advance through the process. Courts are also planning to utilize technology to permit lawyers to appear electronically for court appearances.
How are you using technology to meet with clients, conduct mediation, etc?
While we cannot meet with clients in person as a result of social distancing, we can coordinate meetings where we share screens so we can work on documents together while video conferencing. In our mediation sessions, in addition to establishing breakout rooms, while we cannot use a white board to demonstrate a position, we can share a whiteboard electronically to achieve this same goal.
Given the downtime that people are experiencing, this is a great opportunity to work with a mediator while they have time to try to resolve the issues between them. Not only will doing so clear the way for the parties to return to work fully focused when the pandemic is eliminated, but it will assist in reducing tension that they may be experiencing if they are living in home together during this time or sharing co-parenting responsibilities during these difficult times.
Do you think your clients will be willing to go video? And, will they be more willing or less willing during this “working from home” period?
There will be some clients who are happy that they need not travel to my office to meet or mediate their case with me. There will be others that fear technology and are resistant to doing so. There will also be the clients who fear whether they can discuss divorce issues with their lawyer when their spouse is residing in the home, and for those clients I suggest taking a walk around the block while speaking to their counsel, setting up their computer in their car to provide a secure environment or investing in a sound machine to ensure that their calls are private.
Of course there is also the added stress of having that quiet time away from the children when the clients can focus on the conference with his/her lawyer.
Is video mediation the way of the future and why?
If you had asked me this question two months ago. I would have said never. While I still have a preference for in-person meetings, I do think that video mediation could provide a valuable tool for the future — it saves people time traveling to the mediator’s office and money paying for one’s counsel to travel to the mediator’s office. It permits a party to spread out in his/her space to prepare for the mediation in a familiar and comfortable environment. While the future of video mediation remains to be seen, it is certainly a tool that we should embrace.