Board Technology Committee explores uniformity for remote proceedings
Blockchain technology and its potential uses for the legal profession also discussed
Thrust into the spotlight when the courts switched to mostly online proceedings in March, the Board Technology Committee is looking at a series of COVID-19-related projects.
“As everyone knows, this is front and center of the current crisis,” Chair Jay Kim told the Board of Governors at a July 17 meeting.
Kim said the panel hopes to develop guidelines, or possibly a rule proposal, to make remote proceedings more uniform.
“We are having a lot of feedback from our constituents about the lack of uniformity in remote proceedings, whether they be hearings or depositions,” Kim said.
At a June committee meeting, immediate past Chair Renée Thompson said the methods for submitting virtual evidence can vary widely between, and sometimes within, judicial circuits.
The difference can often depend on a judge’s comfort level with a videoconferencing platform, Thompson said.
“How do I get my exhibits to the court? How do I get my exhibit to counsel?” Thompson said. “It’s a little bit clunky right now as to how you deliver documents for evidence to all of the parties, and make sure they got those documents.”
Kim said the committee will develop its recommendations as quickly as possible.
“So we would like to push out some sort of guidelines from the Bar, and ultimately, hopefully, from the Supreme Court, to be able to establish some uniformity,” he said.
The committee also hopes to leverage The Florida Bar’s collective purchasing power to convince videoconferencing software companies to add features that “allow lawyers to be able to do their jobs a little better,” Kim said.
Kim said videoconferencing products such as Zoom should offer the ability to project images from front and rear-facing cameras at the same time, offering a near 360-degree view that would give hearing participants greater confidence that witnesses aren’t being coached.
“That would go a long way to giving lawyers some comfort in conducting those proceedings,” Kim said.
Some iPhones and iPads have the capability, and software exists that allows a user to monitor a test taker’s eye movement, so adding the feature shouldn’t be difficult, Kim said.
The committee will also continue working on a rule proposal to address the “unintended consequences” of using free email service, Kim said.
“The terms of service…allow those email providers to look into the content,” Kim said. “We would like the Bar to be at the forefront of pushing a rule amendment, or a new rule, regarding the fact that the use of those email services alone does not constitute an intentional waiver of the attorney-client privilege.”
The committee will refer some projects to the Standing Committee on Technology, Kim said.
The board committee will ask the standing committee to develop “tool kits” for LegalFuel, the practice resource center of The Florida Bar, that would help beginners learn the fundamentals of Zoom, Kim said.
“There are some members who are just not able to use Zoom at all,” Kim said. “It would be ‘Zoom 101’ that could assist in getting the new Zoom users…proficient.”
Kim said the standing committee should also develop tutorials that would explain the use of Zoom security features, Zoom waiting rooms, and compare Zoom and its capabilities to other videoconferencing products.
The Standing Committee on Technology will also be asked to develop a tutorial on blockchain technology and its potential uses for the legal profession, Kim said.
“There are certain things that block chain is being used for currently, and one of the things that it may be useful for in the future, especially in remote proceedings, is the ability to authenticate documents,” Kim said. “Obviously, client data and privacy and security are concerns that blockchain may also have relevance to.”
Kim said he will also ask the standing committee to study cryptocurrency and its potential impact on the legal profession.
“We need to address the possibility, and very likelihood, that cryptocurrency will be actual currency for use, and receipt, by lawyers for their own legal fees,” he said.
Kim said he will also ask the standing committee to study the Bar’s advertising rules relating to social media.
“The advertising rules in Florida are a little bit behind the times, and it does not allow the lawyers to quickly get approvals for social media use and the like,” he said. “So, we have asked the standing committee to take a look at what we could possibly do to help lawyers compete a little better.”
President Dori Foster-Morales asked Kim to also confer with the board’s COVID-19 Pandemic Recovery Task Force — which met for the first time July 15 — to make sure that there is no duplication of effort. The point about the lack of uniformity in remote proceedings was also brought up at the task force’s first meeting.
“I know there is a lot going on with technology in particular during this pandemic, so we really appreciate your hard work,” Foster-Morales said.