Combining Virtual with Face to Face
Written by Mumtaz Hussain
Anthony Gold’s team of personal injury solicitors help clients who have suffered serious injuries as a result of medical negligence, road traffic accidents, accidents in the workplace , or even accidents abroad whilst on holiday. Therefore given the often highly emotive circumstances, communication and contact with our clients is essential.
The pandemic caused by Covid19 had a massive impact on how our team of expert solicitors carried out these interactions. A lot of meetings moved to online portals, and words such as Zoom and Teams became commonplace in the daily working lives of our solicitors.
As Covid19 restrictions are being lifted across England and Wales, it’s probably a good time to think about face-to-face client meetings again.
We live in an age of advanced technological growth and development, where in a pandemic requiring multiple lockdowns, the availability of a plethora of digital platforms meant that business meetings around the world were still able to take place. Platforms like Skype, GoToMeeting, Zoom, Facetime, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams offer software to meet without leaving a room, so that begs the question “why leave the room?”
Put simply, despite the hi-tech world we live in, it’s still preferable to meet and mingle face to face than via a screen.
While most office-based personal injury and clinical negligence solicitors (and no doubt others across the professional services sector) will silently scream at the prospect of leaving their desks and monitors to attend a face-to-face networking event, all our lawyers agree that meetings with clients are an entirely different matter. These meetings are completely essential and are fundamental to the role of trusted advisor. In short, we leave our desks for these meetings no matter what.
The impact of over 16 months (at the time of writing) of lockdowns, isolation and anxiety around non-essential gatherings, is now becoming clearer.
Even though it is arguably easier to “jump on a zoom call” than travel to a meeting, there is a new phenomenon which has been specifically identified during the pandemic and referred to as “zoom fatigue”. Although it bears mentioning that this term does not solely apply to the Zoom platform. The phenomenon is explored by Stanford University professor Prof Jeremy N Bailenson in his peer reviewed article “Nonverbal Overload: A Theoretical Argument for the Causes of Zoom Fatigue”, published on February 23rd 2021. The article is one of several commentaries covering this and related topics, published in Technology, Mind and Behaviour (TMB), an open access journal published by the American Psychological Association.
In this well researched article, while Prof Bailenson concludes that “most of the arguments in this article are hypothetical” and that in his opinion, “video conferencing is here to stay”, he does however assert that zoom fatigue is a real issue of concern. His remedies include a series of suggestions as to alterations of the interface of these platforms to alleviate and counteract some of the effects of “zoom fatigue”.
How then does digital compare to face to face?
There are some intensely detailed scientific research papers exploring this very subject. While I highly recommend that you read both articles in the preceding sentence, in this blog I do not propose to go into a detailed review of them.
Personally, my view is that face to face is preferable to online meetings for a whole host of reasons:
- your client may not have access to the technology needed to facilitate an online meeting;
- the instant pace of the communication exchange (there’s a sometimes pronounced time-lag on digital platforms);
- seeing real-time facial expressions, and
- the innate human desire for company because generally we are not built to be lonely.
Meeting clients who need legal advice and assistance with very serious injuries and life changing circumstances however is an altogether different matter to joining a networking event.
It is a fundamental part of the job.
Additionally, solicitors need to be able to build rapport with their clients. This is especially true when personal injury and clinical negligence solicitors are dealing with life changing injuries caused by the negligence of another. That rapport and trust is hard to generate in the first instance via a screen.
Given that there are 4 Covid variants currently causing concern, England’s grand re-opening which took place on the 19th July 2021, where all lockdown restrictions were removed, continues to be approached by many with restraint.
Anxiety levels remain high and many people remain cautious in their approach to meeting in large groups. Where clients have experienced catastrophic injuries causing neurological disability, there may also be the added element of safeguarding from exposure to the virus or variants thereof.
In conclusion therefore even though face-to-face networking is often better than over exposure to online media platforms, these may well be the safest option for the present time.
Where client meetings are concerned our solicitors make every effort to ensure their client’s and their own safety is paramount. The client will have a choice as to whether they prefer to meet face to face or virtually.
Moving forward it is likely that the “new normal” for all our meetings will involve a combination of digital and face to face for both business networking and client consultations.
*Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*