Wednesday, February 10, 2021

“I’m here live. I am not a cat.”

If you were on the internet yesterday, you likely came across the story of the lawyer who accidentally presented as cat during a Zoom court hearing. The Texas lawyer had accidentally left on a cat filter during a video conference call and was unable to turn it off.

While this story provided everyone a much-needed laugh, it does offer two important points: one about a lawyer's ethical duty of technological competence, and another about the importance of a sense of humor and empathy.

1/ Duty of Competence

In 2012 the American Bar Association amended Comment 8 to Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.1 (Duty of Competence) to address technology. It now reads: "To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject." 

So while we can all laugh at this lawyer's Zoom error, we as attorneys do have an ethical obligation to educate ourselves about and understand the technology needed for our legal practices. During the pandemic, Zoom and other videoconference technologies certain qualify as "relevant technology."

2/ Sense of Humor and Empathy

Lawyer: "I’m here live, I'm not a cat."

Judge: "I can see that."

A lesser judge could have excoriated this lawyer. This judge—Roy Ferguson of Texas's 394th Judicial District (bonus points for the Tony Stark homage in his Twitter profile pic)—responded perfectly. He continued on Twitter.

So let's all have a chuckle at this video, learn something from this mistake, applaud all involved for how they handled it in the moment, and say a small prayer that if something like this ever happens to you or me we're in front of a judge like Judge Roy Ferguson.