A Challenging Year Led To Some Productive Changes For the Practice Of Law

January 20, 2021

A year of working under the constraints of the pandemic has changed the way many lawyers look at how they practice law. When we asked for your reflections on the changes to the practice and your hopes for the future, the most frequent responces included:

  • an overall warming up to the use of Zoom and a greater understanding of its capabilities and limitations,
  • an appreciation for the ability to work remotely that many say will last beyond the pandemic
  • and a widespread hope for expanded e-filing capabilities.

NCAJ Board Member Manisha Patel expounds on her experiences in 2020 and some of her hopes for the future here.

Did the experiences of the past year change the way you approach the practice of law, either practically or philosophically?

Yes, this year definitely changed the way I practice and litigate family law. For practical purposes, I had to learn how to use different video conferencing platforms beyond Google and Zoom. I also had to learn how to use these tools to work with clients. I used to only use phone options when clients could not meet in person but using Zoom and other video conferencing platforms have made these meetings much more meaningful because it is like having a face to face but we are still being safe and making healthy choices. Also, practically, the utilization of these video conferencing programs like WebEx have made it so much easier to have virtual hearings and court meetings to resolve litigation matters. The way I argue cases also has changed because I use so much of my body language and facial expressions when in court and having virtual hearings or in-person hearings with masks on take away those tools.

How will you use what you learned going forward?

I think I am still learning how to make the best of virtual court other than the ease and convenience. I think moving forward, I will utilize a lot of these tools I have been forced to use this year. This opens up so much for me personally in the ability to have a flexible practice. I would love to have a 100% virtual and paperless practice but that is jumping ahead of myself and the court system right now.

Are you hopeful that we will see the judicial system or the legal profession change in this year or in the near future?

I hope so but I think most of the change has to come from the attorneys. I personally have experienced so much pushback from colleagues who are resistant to technology even with the plethora of trainings that have taken place and continue to be offered. I truly hope that more practitioners will learn to embrace alternative methods of litigation and ADR to resolve matters for our clients expeditiously and efficiently.

What change would you most like to see?

I hope to see e-filing come to my judicial district sooner rather than later. I believe this is the next big step that will force so many practitioners to incorporate more technology into their practice for the new normal we are facing going into 2021.

What is your greatest hope for the future for yourself?

I hope that I will be able to shift my law practice to 100% paperless once we shift into e-filing.