Miranda Soucie is a Partner at Spiros Law, P.C., a personal injury firm with three offices in Illinois. For 10 years, Miranda has worked tirelessly on behalf of her clients and has dedicated a large portion of her time and energy toward volunteering. Below, she shares some tips and strategies that other attorneys may be able to put into use during COVID-19 to ensure their practices run as smoothly and productive as ever.
Tad Thomas: Miranda, why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself and your practice?
Miranda Soucie: My name is Miranda Soucie. I practice in Illinois. I have three offices in Danville, Champaign, and Kankakee. My practice involves primarily personal injury, wrongful death, and medical malpractice.
Tad Thomas: How long have you been practicing?
Miranda Soucie: I am just hitting my 10th year.
Tad Thomas: I’ve heard you speak on the importance of the relationship between attorneys and their clients, and you have a personal story that I think brings you closer to your clients and understanding what they’re going through. Would you mind talking about that a little bit?
Miranda Soucie: When I was 11, my parents were involved in a catastrophic collision and they lost their lives. My brother and I were taken in by our grandparents and spent our teenage years with them. Going through that process and watching my grandparents struggle with the insurance companies and attorneys really gave me an appreciation for what my clients go through every day. Even though I was young, they leaned on me quite a bit. As such, I was a bit more involved in the process than a typical 11 year-old would be. Even with attorneys involved, the process involved an overwhelming amount of documents and discussions with higher level professionals. It was definitely a weight on our family and our healing during the two-year long process.
As a result, when I am interacting with clients, I spend a fair amount of time dealing with the social and emotional aspects of what they are going through and try to help them navigate the resources available to them to assist them. It is an overwhelming process and we cannot ignore the social impact of these cases on their lives. Sometimes as attorneys, we focus solely on the law.
I know I’m often accused of being a lover of the law, but if we focus too much on the law, we can sometimes lose the personal stories and the personal aspect that really affects our clients on a daily basis. I try as much as I can to help them navigate those issues more in depth than I think otherwise would normally be done in a legal case.
Tad Thomas: Is there anything special that you do when it comes to communicating with your clients and helping them through the process that you don’t see from other lawyers?
Miranda Soucie: Approaching them where they are. For instance, when preparing a client to go and testify, we often will bring clients into our office, into this sort of false environment that is uncomfortable for them. I like to keep my clients in their houses as much as possible and meet them where they’re at. For instance, I will often set a FaceTime appointment with them so that they’re in their environment after hours in a comfortable space, so I can really get to know them. I find if we take them out of their comfort zone, that we don’t get their authentic self. I try to meet them where they are at.
Tad Thomas: And then if you’re doing that, obviously I guess pre-COVID, depositions were done in someone’s office. Do you find that they effectively translate to that new environment when you’re actually giving their deposition?
Miranda Soucie: I do, but I also recognize that you have to meet them early in order to allow them to settle in and become more comfortable. You certainly don’t want them coming in 10 minutes before. I try to get them there at least an hour ahead of time so that we can feel them out in that environment. But I’m cognizant of the fact that getting them out of their own environment does affect the way that they communicate and interact with other people.
Tad Thomas: You mentioned FaceTime. How do you use technology to help walk your clients through this process?
Miranda Soucie: I try as much as I possibly can to use technology to enhance the relationship and also understanding that our clients work, they have kids, and they’re trying to navigate life just the way we are. Bringing them into my office or forcing them to drop off documents to me in-person is an imposition on them. And the less of an imposition I can be on their life, the more that they can function normally. When a client has lost someone or they’re injured, if we are imposing additional constraints on them, I sometimes find it increases their stress level.
You always hear people talk about how a case is sort of a weight on a client’s shoulder and when the case settles or resolves, that is gone. The less I can impose upon them during the process, I think the better.
I have clients who take pictures of documents and just text them to me to make it a little easier for them. I am available via FaceTime, Zoom, over the phone, nights, weekends, those sorts of things. As much as I can implement technology to take less time and energy away from their healing process and their daily life, the better. Obviously, COVID has increased the amount where you’re using that and insurance companies and defense attorneys are being a little bit more flexible in terms of receiving that type of signature, but the less we can impose upon our clients, the more normal they can function and the less of an imposition a legal process is on them personally.
Tad Thomas: You mentioned that you have three offices. How do you use technology to manage the people in those offices and make sure that your cases move along?
Miranda Soucie: We have staff in every single one of our offices. We use Microsoft Teams so that our assistants can communicate with each other regularly. Our phone system is integrated, so I just have to press one button and I can talk to anyone in any of the offices.
We try to do staff meetings via Zoom, full staff meetings at least once a week, but our assistants are getting together a couple of times a week, our attorneys are getting together every morning for 15 minutes just to check in. By implementing those things in particular, we get to see people face-to-face and we’re a lot more connected and on the same page.
All of our files are electronic. I love not having to touch a paper file. We have access to everything from anywhere. And when I’m on the road, it’s right there with me.
Tad Thomas: You mentioned you do attorney meetings every day. What do you do to make sure that when having meetings that often, they’re productive?
Miranda Soucie: The one thing we’ve been doing is just having each attorney mention three short daily goals that they hope to accomplish for that particular day. It’s a very short meeting. We get out what our goals are and move on. But the cool thing that has happened as a result of that is more open communication. I might mention one of my goals for the day and then another attorney in the office has a thought about that goal. It actually has increased our communication and our productivity overall. We’ve been able to lessen the amount that you reinvent the wheel, communicate about issues in cases more, and have a better handle on what everyone is doing on a regular basis. From a management standpoint, it has been a game changer.
Tad Thomas: When we were talking earlier, I was complaining about not being able to go to trial with cases. And you mentioned something that you did early on in COVID to try to make sure that cases kept moving in the court system. Can you talk about what you did?
Miranda Soucie: As soon as COVID started, I realized that we weren’t getting a lot of cooperation in terms of moving cases into the deposition phase. As a result, I reached out to some of the local bar associations and some of the local judges to try to see if I could be a resource to introduce them to Zoom so that there was a greater comfort level in using the platform. Initially, there was a lot of resistance because people didn’t know what to expect, and didn’t know how to use the remote deposition platforms that were available to them. I felt that by bringing the bar association and the judges together, we could have a better understanding overall and then we could move forward into this sort of new normal, which we’re going to be in for a while, and be able to move our cases forward with the understanding that not a lot of cases are going to trial right now, but at least we can continue moving our cases forward.
The really cool thing is the judges were very responsive and I am finding that we are moving forward in a positive way. Many have now started implementing remote settlement conferences.
We’d like to thank Miranda for sharing her wisdom with Lawyer Minds and our readers.
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