I know this is a controversial opinion. I know that there are a ton of lawyers who’ve really benefited from the fact that most lawyering is now remote. But I have to say as someone who has practiced law for fifteen years and who has spent the last two practicing law on a computer, virtual law ain’t good. My opinion, for the record, is an educated one. I’ve done countless court conferences online, I’ve done depositions online and a trial online. Before the pandemic I did millions of conferences, depositions and trials in person. There is no comparison.
I mean yes, I can now sleep longer. I can literally roll out of bed, or even stay in bed if I blur my background, and answer a calendar call. I don’t have to wear tight uncomfortable heels because no one can see my feet. Heck, I can even go braless because the camera doesn’t go past my shoulders anyway. I’m not saying there are no pros, I’m just saying the pros are no comparison to the cons. And the cons go to the heart of what it means to be a lawyer.
The thing is this, being a lawyer is all about connecting and relationships. That’s it. Those two things. Yes sure, it’s about case law, motions and briefs blah blah blah, we all know that. But real lawyering is about people. And no matter how you slice it, you’re never going to be able to really get to know someone and connect with them over a computer. Not when that person is an adversary or a judge or a colleague. Because the gold comes in the informal unscripted moments and there aren’t many of those over a computer.
Lawyers are formal by nature, as are legal proceedings. Running into someone in the hallway, waiting next to a colleague by the printer riding up beside a judge in the elevator, these are interactions not to be missed. They may sound trite and inconsequential. They are not. In fact, if you DO think these moments are inconsequential then you’re probably not a very good lawyer. Lawyers must read people for a living. They must be able to size up whether a potential juror is full of shit even if they say the right thing during questioning. They must be able to discern the body language of an adversary when they make an offer. Think about all the extremely vital but “casually” acquired information that you learn about someone when you watch them walk down a hall.