Per Diem Attorney Blog

No Cats In Court and Other Guidelines for Decorum and Etiquette in Virtual Courts

Mar 30, 2021 9:49:54 AM / by Jackie Cara

lawyer team

On March 18, 2021, the Courts issued guidelines for virtual appearance participants regarding issues like dress, backgrounds, behavior and professionalism.  The memorandum can be read in its entirety here
Appearing attorneys have been officially instructed to “dress in appropriate attire” as you would when appearing in person in court, by Hon. Vito Caruso and Hon. George Silver, Deputy Chief Administrative Judges for Courts in and out of New York City.
With recent court announcements that in person and virtual trials will be moving forward beginning March 22, 2021 and confirmation that the “vast majority of court matters will continue to be handled virtually for the foreseeable future, '' wrote Hon. Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, in her March 8, 2021 message, the courts seem to be signaling the profession to take virtual appearances more seriously and understanding that we will be handling matters by Microsoft Teams for some time to come.  
Rule 1: Dress Appropriately for Court, even if it’s virtual
Days, weeks, months and now a year of working from home certainly seems to have pushed the needle on what we wear to work.   Need help figuring out what “appropriate attire” means in the age of covid and virtual appearances?  This article from Forbes magazine explains the science behind dressing for online meetings.  
Your subconscious mind associates putting on formal clothing with going to work and is strongly correlated with confidence and productivity, which is why it’s critical you maintain a version of your office attire even when working from home. Says Jordon Stolch in his article The New Business Casual: How to Dress for Zoom, which can be read here.  In essence, when you dress professionally you raise your own opinion of yourself and your behavior follows suit by matching your clothes.

If you spend the day in sweats, your mind doesn’t take the task at hand as seriously. Not only do you then feel like napping, but you also struggle to differentiate between work-mode from home-mode.

When it comes to clothing, there is a strong case to be made for dressing the part in order to act the part. As you navigate your new WFH-life, this separation of wardrobe between on and off-duty becomes instrumental in creating more structured normalcy.

And wear pants . . . All it takes is crossing legs, shifting position or reaching for a file to blow your bare legs cover.  In 2020, discovered that 1 out of 10 people on virtual platforms were not wearing pants on calls.  Men were found to wear only underwear at a much higher rate than women and 75% were wearing pajamas, sweats, shorts or leggings.  Remember the reporter who forgot to wear pants on TV, last year?  Clearly he misjudged the angle of his camera. 

So don’t be that person who forgot to wear pants in court. 


Rule 2 - Appropriate Backgrounds Please

Cat on ZoomIn other words, don’t be a cat when handling a virtual appearance.  Adrian Dayton, wrote in Forbes, in his article 3 Rules to Not Being a Cat on Zoom, which can be read here

Need help creating a background? Try these easy resources: 

  1. Microsoft Teams
  2. Zoom 
  3. Canva

In addition to directing the use of professional virtual backgrounds.  Courts also expect participants in appearances and depositions to manage background noise and be in “appropriate” settings while handling matters.  


Rule 3 - No Eating or Drinking While Lawyering 

Meryl Streep Drinking on zoomNo more morning mimosas (or martinis) while on camera.  This goes for eating sandwiches while in “virtual court.” 


Rule 4 - Remain Professional and Dignified

pizza guyA catch all Rule, the court admonishes participants to remain Professional and Dignified while speaking one at a time, being prepared and exhibiting camaraderie and civility. 


Last but not least:  Attend Appearances from an Appropriate Location

dad on zoomWorking from home is not without its challenges, but when “in court” keep the chaos to a minimum.  Read this article for some tips on keeping kids quiet while in a virtual meeting.  Hint:  None of the tips involve duct tape. 

Courts can also be expected to require cameras to be on during appearances.  No more hiding in your pjs.  

Have questions about new court protocols as things get “back to normal” The ZR Per Diem Help Desk is here to help.  Find out more here


Tags: General Knowledge, Per Diem Attorneys, Virtual Appearances, Virtual Associates

Jackie Cara

Written by Jackie Cara