From the Executive Director | Creating the New Normal

By John Morris Williams

This year, we are fortunate to hold the Annual Meeting without having to attend to COVID-19 restrictions. However, after COVID-19, the world will never be the same. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Just different. Many pre-pandemic prophets predicted online learning and virtual meetings would be the norm in the not-too-distant future. No date was set, but we were told it was coming. COVID-19 fast-forwarded us five to 10 years. While there were a few things to learn, the OBA mostly had this down and was well prepared to make the change instantaneously in the spring of 2020.

As we move to the “new normal,” having a virtual component to the Annual Meeting is just assumed. In 2020, more than 2,000 members attended some portion of the all-virtual Annual Meeting. It was good we were able to provide quality programming with the opportunity for everyone to attend. The new normal will require consideration of technology in everything we do. I believe the ability to accommodate members who could not otherwise attend is essential to good member services. Twenty-five percent of OBA members live out of state. That means we have more members living out of state than we do in Tulsa County. Having the ability and desire to provide services to our members, regardless of location, is essential.

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So what does that mean for the average OBA member? It means most OBA services will be sought out first online. There will be fewer in-person meetings. The utilization of almost entirely online services with the OBA means fewer staff contacts and personal relationships. On the other hand, a virtual bar association is 24/7/365, and members can meet all their obligations to continue licensure at any time from anywhere. Staff will still be providing services and producing products. How they are obtained and utilized will be, in the not-too-distant future, very customizable.

Another good thing in the new normal is that mobility allows participation from anywhere. Mobile devices such as phones, tablets and iPads – when working through cell towers as opposed to the internet – can often deliver a better user experience. In addition to allowing participation from anywhere, having these devices handy also provides a good backup if there is a distribution of your internet connection. On more than one occasion, I have signed out of a virtual meeting and re-entered using my cell phone, getting a much better connection and overall improvement in sound quality. Either way, make sure you have a secure connection for confidential or sensitive information.

While having a good camera is desired, the surveys show that so-so video is tolerable if one has good audio quality. Most of the popular videoconferencing systems have virtual backdrops you can use if you are away from your office or suddenly wish your office to look different. Another reason to use a virtual background is to hide confidential documents scattered about your workspace. Additionally, while remote work dress codes were relaxed, as business returns to the new normal, what was normal for home is not normal for the office – especially in professional settings. Dressing professionally is the order of the day when in professional settings, even if the setting is remote. If you are appearing virtually in court, dress as if you were personally in court. If you are appearing in court by video, solid colors work best, accessories like earrings that could produce noise should be avoided, and bold patterns or skin-toned apparel is advised against.

Lawyers generally sell their time for a living. The new normal has the potential for time savings and better time management. Be involved in your association, and help us build the best new normal possible.

To contact Executive Director Williams, email him at johnw@okbar.org.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 93 Vol 9 (November 2022)