by Brian Wilson, Associate
After catching up yesterday with some former colleagues, I decided to take some time and virtually attend a judge’s calendar call. Some of the things we experienced may prove relevant for many people over the next weeks (or months) until we are back to normal.
Too Long; Didn’t Read Summary
- Give yourself extra time to download and register for any video conferencing system. If you run into issues, this will give you time to contact the host ahead of time to get them resolved.
- Dress for work as normal. (I hope this much was obvious, but see this article about some Florida attorneys for a laugh.)
- Use headphones to avoid echo and feedback.
- If a client is present, consider using a separate encrypted instant messaging app to send notes and discuss topics privately.
The judge who hosted this calendar call used WebEx; a video conferencing platform run by Cisco. The platform was chosen because of its ability to allow members of the public to attend and thereby keep the courts open and public. After clicking the link provided, I had to register with WebEx by providing the usual contact information and download a browser extension. This process was very easy, and the instructions were clear, but be prepared to take a few extra minutes to set up for any virtual hearing. I would recommend contacting the host’s office the day before and confirming which software they use to do a dry run if possible.
Viewers were divided into two groups: participants and attendees. Participants included all of the key players – the Judge, the Assistant District Attorney, the Public Defender, the Defendants, private attorneys, and Parole Officers. As an attendee, my video-feed was not displayed and my microphone was muted by the event host. I could not unmute it.
The Judge was seated on the bench in his normal robes with the court seal positioned behind him. Defendants were brought one-at-a-time, in masks, before a webcam in the jail with a sheriff’s deputy. Attorneys attended from their offices or living rooms, and they were all dressed for court.
The proceedings ran mostly as normal, but some issues did arise. As the Judge took guilty pleas, there was audible echo and feedback, which is not uncommon on most video calls. I would strongly recommend the use of headphones to avoid this as much as possible. Also, one defendant sought to retract his planned guilty plea. The public defender “pulled a Dr. Fauci” and buried his face in his hands. It’s a natural reaction, but it does highlight the problem of not being able to pull on a client’s sleeve or whisper in his or her ear. For hearings with clients, it would be wise to use a separate, secure instant messenger app to send quick notes.
The event concluded without fanfare. Justice goes on, just now from your living room. Stay safe and be well.Read More
As a part of the Atlanta Consular Corps, I regularly attend informative presentations that discuss Atlanta’s place in the international community. During a recent event, I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Chaouki T. Abdallah speak.
Dr. Abdallah is the Executive Vice President for Research (EVPR) at the Georgia Institute of Technology. As a direct report to President G.P. “Bud” Peterson and a member of the president’s cabinet, the EVPR serves as chief research officer for the Institute. In his presentation, Dr. Abdallah discussed how Georgia Tech is one of the top ranked engineering schools in the U.S. and has taken a leadership role with study abroad programs and overseas engagement. It has a campus in Metz, France that has been open for more than 30 years, as well as a new campus in Shenzhen, China that is scheduled to open this year.
Likewise, Georgia Tech has a very substantial international student body at its main campus in Atlanta. In FY 2018, GT had a research budget approaching $1 Billion, almost doubling in size over a decade from FY 2008. Various major international corporations have located their Corporate Innovation Centers at Georgia Tech in order to keep them independently administered. Approximately 86% of the job-seeking students who received their degree from Georgia Tech in May 2018 had been offered a job at graduation. In terms of expected salary, $70,000 is the median starting salary for BS graduates, and $95,000 is the median starting salary for MS graduates. For BS graduates, Georgia Tech is ranked No. 8 in Annualized Return on Investment in Higher Education by PayScale.com.
Following this, we next took a tour of the brand newCoda Building at Tech Square. It has almost 750,000 square feet and will house a mix of highly secure data and research facilities for the Georgia Tech Research Institute. Additionally, there will be various private industry tenants to be connected in a “town square” type of public space for shared collaboration. We even had the opportunity to experience the world’s tallest continuous spiral staircase.
All in all, it was a great day to learn about how Georgia Tech is helping Atlanta expand its international footprint and attract individuals and businesses from around the world.Read More
We’ve heard before that we should “dress for the job we want,” but it takes a lot more than a great suit to make a solid impression. It is a collection of factors that establish true “executive presence” (EP). Jessica Wood was pleased to weigh in on this topic at a recent Georgia Latino Law Foundation (GLLF) event focusing on establishing EP hosted by Mark Newman and his firm Troutman Sanders.
Coined by Kennedy Scholar and economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett, “executive presence” is an amalgam of qualities that true leaders exude, a presence that telegraphs you’re in charge or deserve to be. EP is a dynamic, cohesive mix of appearance, communication, and gravitas.”
Some people seem to have EP naturally, like Amal Clooney, Nelson Mandela, Oprah and Malala Yousafzai, but like anyone seeking to gain respect and be heard, they had to work to get to that point. It isn’t just about being bold either, those with true executive presence build others up too. They support their peers – particularly women and people of color who may be vulnerable – avoid destructive gossip, and model exemplary workplace behavior. Jessica and her fellow panelist, Sofia Bork of Hispanic Young Professionals and Entrepreneurs (HYPE), shared with the law students in attendance the actions they had taken to create their own EP.
Other topics discussed included how to give and accept compliments and constructive criticism, how to exceed expectations by establishing clear deliverables with law professors and partners, and ways to establish processes to impress others with authority, poise, reliability, and stability. Real life examples of how to accomplish this included:
- Visiting courthouses and other important venues in advance of important dates, to control logistics and enhance proactivity;
- Researching clients, opposing counsel, and the judge to identify points of commonality, work styles, and preferences;
- Creating more than one version of any speech or presentation, as well as videotaping and watching themselves with the sound on and off, to eliminate nervous tics and focus on nonverbal communication; and
- Adding value with comments and questions without undermining that value with throat-clearing expressions like, “this may be a stupid question, but….”
To round out the event, GLLF founder Ana Maria Martinez educated the entire group about proper dining etiquette to instill confidence during interview-based meals and other professional events. (Jessica learned more than she anticipated during this part of the event.)
If you are interested in learning more or having Jessica speak about executive presence with your organization, feel free to reach out.
GLLF was created to increase diversity in the legal profession by supporting the Latino legal community pipeline. Participating law students attend events, work with individually assigned mentors, and they are eligible for prestigious fellowships.Read More
In today’s ever-growing gig economy, the line between contractor and employee is often blurred. For purposes of attorney-client privilege and outsourcing, a key concern is whether in-house counsel’s communications with outside consultants are protected. In an economy where contractors and consultants are used more frequently, this case promotes the in-house counsel’s role in the outsourcing landscape.
The laws differ by state, and some states have not yet addressed this area of law. Tennessee was one such state until recently when Bodker, Ramsey, Andrews, Winograd & Wildstein (BRAWW) represented The Krystal Company in a case of first impression that addressed this issue.
In Waste Administrative Systems, Inc. v. The Krystal Company, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled in Krystal’s favor and held that legal advice given by in-house counsel to a contractor is eligible for protection, because the contractor is a “functional equivalent” of an employee. This ruling is encouraging for in-house counsel who frequently interact with outsourced non-employees and vendors about issues of legal significance and who depend on the free flow of information that those vendors are uniquely situated to provide.
Although Georgia has not yet expressly adopted the “functional equivalent” test, Georgia federal courts have cited a case from outside of the state that allows for application of attorney-client privilege for communications between attorneys and nonemployees in certain contexts.
We congratulate BRAWW attorneys, Harry Winograd and Jessica Wood as well as paralegal Jamie Cheattom, on their hard work and victory on behalf of our client. Sloane Perras, Krystal’s SVP, Chief Administrative & Legal Officer and Tennessee counsel Jeff Thompson also participated in the successful outcome.Read More