Better Remote Court Presentation

Remote court proceedings are not going anywhere. That said, many attorneys continue to appear in court with poor audio and video production. Your "production" is the new suit coat and shoe shine of pre-COVID court. Looking and sounding good does not have to be expensive, even if you find yourself looking like a cat sometimes. 

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In a word, lawyers communicate. You need to be heard at your hearing.  Looking back at the past year and the various remote hearings I have been in, the frustration is all about interruptions and the quality of that communication. While you may not be able to control the audio you are receiving, you can absolutely control the audio you are sending.

This means you need a mic worth the preparation you have put in and the importance of the hearing for your client. A stand-alone mic will instantly improve your remote court presence. There are several options but a USB mic is the best in my opinion. They are easy to use, normally just plug and play, and can be placed just out of the frame so no one will even know why your voice sounds much more realistic than your last hearing. Some mics come with the option to be able to pick up audio from multiple people in case your client is sitting with you. Here are my suggestions: 

Top Pick: Blue Yeti Nano USB Microphone Easy to use, sounds great, multiple audio settings, comes with a stand. Just plug it in and select it as your "audio in" device. I note that there is a feature to use the headphone jack as the audio out and I noticed when I first got one my computer went to that automatically. Easy fix in your settings (just select your computer's speakers). You can often find the larger version for near the same price but it is taller which may get in the way. The benefit of the larger version (I have owned both) is the ability to adjust the input gain with an external knob, as well as more speaker patterns. While cool for music recording or other audio projects, the additional patterns will not be useful for remote hearings.

Runners Up:

UHURU Professional PC Streaming Cardioid Microphone Kit Comes with a nifty stand and a pop filter. 

FIFINE Metal Condenser Recording Microphone A good budget option that includes a stand. 

A word about lapel mics: Don't. They will get in the way, will not sound much better than your laptop mic, have an annoying cord that tethers you in place, are not compatible if your client is in the same room, and are frankly made more for game shows and possibly connecting to your cellphone. They are also no cheaper than the FIFINE mic listed above.

Additionally, if your goal is better audio, in-ear Bluetooth earbuds will not sound any better than your voice through your cellphone mic. They are totally convenient (I love my Jabra 75t earbuds) but they do not add anything to the production value of your presentation. 


I will admit that I have hidden a wrinkled dress shirt under my suit coat in court (to varying degrees of success). But looking sharp and well-groomed always makes me feel more confident to represent my client. The same goes with having a well-framed, good-quality video feed. 

So I have an assignment for you. Take 5 minutes tomorrow, go to your regular remote court setup, and Zoom someone important to you. Your mom, a significant other, college mascot, whoever. Just make sure they can see the video on the other end, ideally on a computer screen. Ask them about it. Are you a pixel monster or a human being? Are parts of you cut off that should be there? Are parts of you showing that do not need to? How is the camera angle? Any nose hairs in view or unflattering body placement? What is the background like? Messy desk? A cluttered bookcase? 

While all these things are important, getting a good camera that mounts on top of your monitor will solve so many things. The slight downward angle will help you look your best. Fewer pixels and more human-ness will make you more engaging (or at least help the Judge think more about your message and less about the camera view). Here are some options that will improve how you look in court well beyond the built-in laptop camera.

Top Pick: Logitech BRIO Ultra HD Webcam Straightforward to use. Good coloring and image quality. Sits nicely above your computer monitor. If you want to invest in something that should be useable for years, this is my recommendation. I especially like this for court because of the wide-angle setting (90 degrees), which will easily allow both you and your client to sit next to each other and be collectively in the Court's view. 

Runners Up:

Logitech HD Webcam C270 I have had my Logitech C270 for a few years. It has worked on every computer I have plugged it into. The audio is not any better than your computer's built-in mic but the video is a clear step above your laptop's camera and being able to place it above your monitor will present you in a better position. Best budget option. 

NexiGo N60 USB Computer Camera There are a ton of webcams on Amazon. The NexiGo's 110-degree range of view is awesome for the price and, again, nice for court when you need to include both you and your client in the same frame. 

Smartphone as a webcam? I tried it with my iPhone 10. You need to download an app on your phone along with a corresponding program on your computer. When you turn on both at the same time, your phone's camera becomes a webcam. The picture quality was great. I used an app called Camo that had options to adjust the colors, saturation, and other settings. The issue I ran into was lag. The video did not keep up with my voice on Zoom. Also, it was kind of annoying to set up. I was worried about something going wrong as well. Hopefully, these issues will be resolved eventually, but until then the comfort of a dedicated webcam for court is one less thing to worry about. 

You could totally get fancy if you want with a DSLR or GoPro. You will look awesome I'm sure if you want to invest the money. You will also need special software to use these as webcams but most companies have released those. If you are curious about this option, maybe start with a used GoPro Hero 4 on eBay. 


Lighting is so important. It will make whatever camera you have immediately better. There is an awesome video from Julie Schiro about improving your lighting for cheap/free. 

It boils down to the deep and profound quote from Anchorman: "I love lamp."

Multiple light sources will make you look more natural. You do not need a fancy, round influencer lamp. Open your window if possible, and get some lamps. Ikea, Walmart, Target, grandma's house. Lamps are cheap and will help you look more like a human on Zoom (again, human=good).

An inexpensive and adjustable lamp that I use is an ENOCH Desk Lamp. My computer is facing a white painted wall. I have the light just above my monitor, angled towards the wall. It makes that diffused look without a diffuser because the light on my face has first bounced off the textured wall. I like the light and it has actually made the rest of my desk easier to read on. 


Whatever setup you have or end up with, the most useful thing I have learned about Zoom court is the ability to practice with a recorded run-through. 

    1. Open up Zoom (you will need to be signed in to do this).
    2. Start a new video meeting but do not share it, this will be a meeting of one. 
    3. Once the meeting is started, make sure the right camera, microphone, and speakers are selected using the audio and video options on the bottom left. 
    4. At this point, you can use the record button to create a video of yourself. 
    5. Once you are done recording, exit out of the meeting window, and a new window should pop up with the saved video. There will be a few different files created but one will be the audio and video combined.
    6. At this point, watch the clip! Make adjustments and compare. The video will be what the court sees, which is reassuring to a paranoid attorney like me. 


The exhibit process for Zoom hearings will vary by jurisdiction, Judge, and county. Where I practice, the court requires hard copy exhibits a certain number of days before the hearing and/or trial. Check with the clerk or scheduling order for instructions. That said, this is how I have successfully presented exhibits during Zoom hearings.

    1. Print 2 copies of the exhibits (one for the record and the other a bench copy). Put them in an envelope marked with the case number and party name. Deliver the envelope to the clerk letting them know they are the exhibits for a zoom trial with the correct Judge. I pre-mark them based on our local rules. 
    2. Send a copy to the other side (email if possible but if they are pro se I mail them a copy).
    3. Have exhibits scanned or saved as a PDF and open in Adobe Acrobat for the hearing. 
    4. When it comes time to use the exhibit during the hearing, I ask the Judge for permission to publish my screen. Some Judges have requested that I lay the foundation before I publish my screen, which is fine but can get a little trickier if you and your client are not in the same location (e.g. your client joined on her phone at home). 
    5. I then click "share screen" on the bottom of the Zoom window (the clerk might need to give you access to share your screen if that option is not there). That should bring up some options about which window you want to share. Click on the Adobe window showing the Exhibits (not the entire screen, just the Adobe window). Once that window is selected, click the blue share on the bottom right to show the window to everyone in the Zoom hearing. Your video and audio feed should continue broadcasting even if you no longer see it on screen. 
    6. You should see the Adobe window now along with a message at the top that you are sharing that screen. You can then lay the foundation, ask to admit, and use the exhibit as you like.
    7. When you are done with the exhibit, you can click "Stop Share" in red at the top of the Adobe window and the normal Zoom window should automatically reopen. 


I hope this helps. Remote proceedings are here to stay and for a lot of hearings, that is a good thing for your time and your client's money. There are still things that are accomplished much better in person. Objecting during a video hearing is so awkward! And cross-examination loses a lot of the drama. Zoom hearings are now just another tool you will need to know.