North Carolinians have been continuing their phases of Governor Roy Cooper’s “Safer at Home” policy to slow transmission and reduce risk factors of COVID-19 – impacting virtually all daily routines and major industries, including law. While this policy continues and people are unable to gather in groups larger than 10, the legal system is finding ways to continue operating smoothly and safely, including by conducting completely remote court hearings, depositions and mediations via video streaming services where appropriate. Being involved in a court case, especially one that involves your or a loved one’s injury, can be stressful enough without having to figure out the technology you’ll need to do so.
Not all hearings and depositions can be done remotely, and civil trials have still not resumed, but we are working to keep all cases moving along under these difficult circumstances.
For those hearings, depositions and other meetings that can go forward, we’re here to help you navigate your virtual hearing and prepare for it as best you can.
What to Expect
At a virtual hearing, all or some participants will be required to join the proceedings by phone or by video streaming service like Zoom. Just like any other court hearing, all parties involved in the case will be notified in advance and the court will ensure that you’ll be able to attend remotely. Remember that even thought you may be in your home, you should still act as though you’re in a courtroom.
What You’ll Need
You’ll need a working or laptop and access to reliable WiFi prior to your hearing, as well as a Zoom account in many cases. Zoom is an online video chat service that allows multiple parties to join at once and offers a free version that is simple to sign up with if you have an email account. If you don’t have access to internet or a phone, notify the court as soon as you can. They will either help to accommodate you to join remotely or postpone your hearing until everyone can safely attend in person.
How to Prepare
In many ways, you should prepare as though this is a traditional in-person hearing, with the added responsibility of ensuring you’ll be equipped with the right tools to virtually attend. Once you know that you have the proper device and internet access, you should determine how your court will be conducting the hearing and make sure you have the right software. If they will be using Zoom, you should go to zoom.us and create your free account with your email. It could be beneficial to do a test call with a friend and make sure you’re familiar with all the features of the platform, and will be able to capably join the meeting, connect your webcam & audio, mute yourself and leave the meeting when appropriate.
Not all of us are tech-savvy, and even fewer of us are familiar with court-related proceedings. As your lawyers, we’re here to ensure that you’re completely prepared and confident in your case, even if it’s conducted remotely.