After the exhilaration of being able to convert our program overnight into an online program as a result of having the Office 365 Teams already in place, the realization soon set in that the curricula that we were implementing at South Coast College was the curricula for the way we were, and suddenly there was a new reality emerging.
Learning how COVID-19 Affects the Legal Industry
How do we find out how things are being done in the new reality? The consensus was that we had to find out more about what was happening foremost in the legal professions where most of our students are preparing to enter.
Our team came up with implementing a virtual meeting where we could obtain insight into how the roles of our students were going to be impacted as a result of the changes that were necessitated by COVID and give our students a glimpse of the new realty.
For the kick-off, we invited a judge and an attorney who has hired many South Coast College paralegal graduates to speak on how they were coping with COVID. We also invited the President of NALA, a professional association for legal assistants, and the President of NCRA, a professional court reporting association, for any insights that they might have for our students.
The format was that the speakers should speak for no more than 15 minutes, and all participants would be allowed to have a 15-second introduction.
We reached out to our alumni and other stakeholders in the legal profession and invited them to participate and made the forum open to students who wished to participate on zoom. For cyber-security purposes, we provided links to the meeting on an invitation basis only. For students who did not want to be in the forum itself but wanted to have access to the forum, we placed a link on the South Coast College Facebook page to allow them to view afterwards.
Helping Students with their Business During COVID-19
The first meeting was so successful that it gave birth to a weekly legal forum. People started emailing asking to be invited and asking to participate as speakers with a list of topics on which they would like to speak! One such request to attend was from our alumnae, twins who own a deposition agency in Southern California. They explained that a hot industry topic was how to use technology to transform your business during COVID, and we invited them to speak on their experience in dealing with the COVID situation.
As agency owners, they experienced first-hand the devastating impact that the court reporting field encountered when the legal profession came to a screeching halt in Southern California with no depositions being taken. After the initial shock set in, they decided like many of our other court reporting graduates, that to survive, they had to re-educate themselves by learning how to do remote depositions using technology. But that was not enough, after they invested in the new technology, they had to convince attorneys to start doing remote depositions. They told how they had to handle every objection that the attorneys made to remote depositions:
- Objection: The witness doesn’t have a computer.
- Response: We will send them an IPad or computer with a return address envelop provided.
- Objection: The witness is afraid of computers.
- Response: We will have someone come out, sanitize the area to be used before the deposition, show the deponent what to do, and sanitize afterwards.
Finally, they had to deal with the unspoken objection. The attorneys did not know how to do remote depositions. They had to conduct “how to” sessions for the attorneys.
A Need for Virtual Sessions
The response from the virtual community was that it wanted to hear more, and the virtual sessions that followed included cyber-security, using Office 365, and dealing with the new normal after COVID. A prominent legal trial attorney in Orange County recently spoke on how the legal profession and businesses in general are posturing ready to deal with the aftermath of COVID. Two other alumni agencies owners also joined as speakers. After several sessions, many observers noted how important a role the court reporter has played in the survival of the legal industry in California.
What take-aways arise from the Legal Forum endeavor?
- Attorneys and court reporters learn from one another.
- Students see that attorneys and judges are real people, lessening the intimidation of working with them in the future.
- Students know that the professions that they are entering are respected professions.
- Students learn the importance of keeping up with changes in technology.
- Students find out that successful alumni are not so different from themselves.
- Court reporting students benefit because they will learn how to do online depos in their deposition procedures class as South Coast College knows that it is now part of the new reality in court reporting.
Join us for our virtual Legal Networking Forum 2020 every Wednesday by reaching out to [email protected] or visiting our South Coast College Paralegal Program Facebook page for more information on how to sign up.