by Michael Djavaherian

Two articles in the ABA Journal this past week discuss different aspects of the inexorable trend making law practice virtual for a significant number of practitioners and practice types. The first is about a newly passed California bill, SB 241, soon to be signed, about virtual court appearances. Under this law, lawyers who appear in court, business litigators, family lawyers, landlord/tenant lawyers, indeed all types of lawyers who handle civil matters, will be able to appear in court via remote hearings until July 2023. The bill was passed unanimously by the California legislature and is expected to be signed by Governor Newsom. Click this link for the details of this bill.

While the authorization for virtual court hearings expires in two years, I can’t imagine that after two more years of everyone attending court hearings and finding that they can still make their arguments, judges can still listen to both sides, and the quality of presentation or decision-making doesn’t change, that the use of videoconference technology will be curtailed. Lawyers who have grown accustomed to appearing from their home office or an office 200 miles away will demand that they be allowed to continue to appear virtually, and I think judges will be happy to let them. It works for everyone.

I also think that as California goes, so goes the nation. Most jurisdictions are allowing virtual appearances for civil matters now, and those courts will likely remain virtual as well.

The second article discusses whether virtual office work is here to stay. Echoing an article I wrote last month, and updated last week, John Roemer in the ABA Journal opines that “as law firms develop management plans for full post-COVID-19 reopenings later this year so that corridors and corner offices grow animated again, the changes compelled by the pandemic won’t disappear. Some degree of work from home will continue at many firms, according to an American Lawyer review of planning, which discovered ‘permanent changes to their offices based on lessons learned in the past year.’

There will be staggered workweeks and “hoteling,” the sequential sharing of offices. For those who came to value remote work, there will be management empathy—to varying degrees.”

Law firms will retain offices to some extent for the foreseeable future, but whether solos and small firms will follow suit remains to be seen. I tend to believe that very few will go back to the physical office, and those that do will rent smaller spaces or find office sharing and hourly rental options that fit their needs.

This new world of ours continues to evolve. At XIRA we are here to grow and evolve as you do, and meet your needs so that you can practice your way.