In the old days, patent attorneys were based in D.C. so that they could physically search for patents in the "shoes" and meet with examiners in person to discuss a case.
Times have changed. The "shoes" have been replaced by online searching, most examiner interviews are conducted on the phone, and there are more patent attorneys outside of D.C. to avoid its extremely high overhead costs. Whether or not there is a benefit to in-person interviews compared with telephone interviews can be debated, but what many may not realize is that the USPTO has set up a free video conference option available for every single examiner. As explained on the USPTO website,
Video conferencing with a patent examiner gives you the ability to have face-to-face meetings, no matter the location of the examiner or attorney ... Video conference interviews will not be recorded. The substance of the interview will be documented by the examiner in an interview summary according to standard practice.
This service is available for any examiner interview and simply requires that you ask the Examiner to set it up. You can even include in-house counsel and/or the inventors. One way to request such an interview is to utilize the USPTO's online form (AIR), but you must give at least 5 days notice with this option. While often a phone call is sufficient to do the job, sometimes it can be helpful for everyone to see one another.
So, next time you are thinking of having an interview to discuss a case with an examiner, consider using the USPTO's free videoconferencing option and put a face to the name.