How Zoom Gives Us Access To Justice During COVID-19

As of late April, Canada has over 40,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The global pandemic has changed the way we interact with our family, friends, and neighbours. It’s changed the way we shop, the way we do business, and the way we access justice.

At Sharma Law, we’ve adapted to this new reality in innovative ways. In fact, we’re so pleased with the efficiency and effectiveness of these new methods of communication that we’re considering their application in a post-COVID world.

But what does meeting with your lawyer look like in the world of social distancing? And what are the benefits in regard to your time and money? Keep reading to find out.

The Legal Community and Social Distancing

In light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, public health agencies the world over have made a number of recommendations on how to slow the spread of the virus. One of the main ways in which we’ve been asked to do our part is to social distance.

Practicing social distancing is especially difficult in the legal community. We’re bound to legislative requirements and risk management measures that typically require face-to-face meetings.

For that reason, the Government of Ontario deemed that law offices and paralegal offices are considered essential workplaces. We’re permitted to remain open and meet with clients when the need is absolutely necessary.

However, after thorough review of the measures and standards we’re required to meet, we recognize that these instances are far and few between. Instead, we’ve found ways of adapting our practice that gives you access to the services you need while remaining safe and healthy in your home.

Particularly, the use of video-conferencing tools like Zoom are allowing us to provide all the services we usually would while maintaining social distancing. And we can do so without compromising the standards we’re held to under the law.

The Law Society of Ontario and Best Practices

The Law Society of Ontario has conducted a thorough review of best practices in this unprecedented situation. They’ve found that many of the daily and routine tasks we perform for our clients can be conducted via video conferencing tools.

One item of concern has to do with client identification. We’re obliged to confirm and verify the identity of our clients. This obligation is definitely possible with Zoom, especially considering that we can set password protection and control who is admitted into our meetings.

Another item of concern is related to the signing of documents, which is easily overcome with virtual signing programs like Adobe Sign, SignNow, and DocuSign. Through these programs and the use of Zoom, we can support clients in the commissioning of documents and even in the execution of wills.

Our Experiences with Zoom at Sharma Law

Of course, we recognize that the needs of every client and our obligations to them vary. What is considered effective communication in one case may not apply to another. But, until now, we’ve had very positive experiences and even more positive feedback regarding the use of Zoom calls in communication with our clients and others.

Actually, we’ve successfully completed all of our client meetings using Zoom since the social distancing measures went into place. Those meetings go well beyond routine client meetings and have included everything from examinations for discovery to mediations.

This has made it possible for both plaintiffs and defendants to move forward with the litigation of claims. Through this well designed technology, we can continue legal processes without any costly delays in terms of both time and money.

In speaking of time and money, the use of Zoom keeps costs low in other ways. For example, clients don’t have to drive to meetings. Similarly, lawyers don’t have to pay for rooms at reporting centers and travel time.   

These reduced costs coupled with meeting from the comfort of your own home and with a more flexible schedule extends access to the legal system that has been, until now, difficult for some people. Indeed, Zoom has been such an excellent medium in terms of time and expense savings that we believe it might become the norm in the post-pandemic world.

Addressing Privacy Concerns

As Zoom video conferencing with clients becomes the new norm, it’s important that we review the potential privacy issues that using this technology creates. Namely, Zoom does collect personal data. This includes:

  • Your name, user name, physical address, email address, phone numbers and other information commonly used to identify you
  • Information about your employer and the title you carry at your place of employment
  • Information about your device and internet connection
  • Information about the way you use the technology
  • General information about your preferences when using the product

It’s important to note, though, that Zoom doesn’t accept payment for access to any personal data it collects, and it doesn’t sell that information to third parties. According to their privacy policy, Zoom collects this information in order to better serve the community of people using the product.

And while we feel comfortable using this tool to meet with our clients and provide the legal services you need, any potential concerns you may have are our top priority.

Before holding any meeting via Zoom, we’ll ask for your consent to proceed. We take any and all precautions suggested by the Law Society of Ontario, such as considerations of confidentiality and record-keeping of the dates, times, and content of our meeting. But should you have any questions about this method, we’re happy to address those before moving forward.

COVID-19 Doesn’t Have to Impact Your Ability to Access Justice

COVID-19 has changed the ways we do so many things and the legal system is no exception. While the ways in which we interact with our clients have changed, your ability to pursue litigation or other legal matters hasn’t.

Using technology like Zoom, we’re bringing our clients the same level of service, but with reduced expenses in terms of both time and money. So, if you have a legal matter to discuss, let’s not wait until social distancing is over. Contact us today to get started.

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