How to incorporate video conferencing into your law practice
Lawyers need to consult face-to-face — deposing witnesses and finalizing deals — but there's no reason they can't do those tasks while also saving time and money through technology.
Thu, May 10, 2012 at 01:49 PM
In today’s professional climate, video conferencing is far-reaching. In the legal industry, where all matters are sensitive and every minute is billable, attorneys and clients must connect quickly, easily and efficiently. One solution to reducing travel while still consulting face-to-face, deposing witnesses and finalizing deals is video conferencing. Whether high-end or basic, video conferencing for lawyers is becoming more common both in smaller firms and corporate legal departments.
Looking to incorporate video conferencing into your law practice? Here are tips to get started.
Know your budget. Can you afford the most expensive system? Cisco TelePresence 3000, which starts at about $300,000, is considered top of the line, according to Steven Levy, principal of Seattle-based Lexician, who recently was interviewed on a podcast called Law Technology Now. This system uses virtual conference rooms to create lifelike meetings. “Somebody sneezes in the other conference room and you want to reach across and hand them a hanky,” Levy said to podcast host Monica Bay. “It’s that effective an illusion.” For most, this price point is extreme. So Levy suggests “80-20 versions” of video conferencing systems, which deliver 80 percent of the value for 20 percent or less of the cost.
Consider your needs. “If the addition of video conferencing will save many, or all, of your attorneys significant amounts of time in commuting and improve the productivity of their work day, then video conferencing will definitely help to grow your practice,” wrote corporate branding expert Harold German in the technology journal LLRX. Does your firm or company have multiple offices across the country and/or globe? Is it involved in cases with witnesses scattered far and wide? If you want video conferencing primarily for meetings, look to streamlined in-house systems, which can be set up in a central location with large monitors to accommodate more participants. Desktop systems in individual offices work well for intimate discussions, such as a deposition when an associate is on site and a senior attorney observes via video.
Resolve for the best image. Most IT departments will understand the technology better than an attorney, but it helps if the lawyer is schooled in some basic terminology. The camera is crucial to a successful video conference, said Levy. “The number of pixels you’re transmitting is very significant to that suspension of disbelief that transforms a video conference into a conversation,” he added. While most desktop and laptop Web cameras are low resolution, he recommends a resolution of at least 2 megapixels, with a frame rate of 30 frames per second. Don’t know what that means? Share that information with the right people, and you will get the right video conferencing equipment.
Secure the security. Firewalls, password protection and other security measures often take minutes to install, but they are likely the most crucial piece of the video conferencing experience for lawyers, who rely on attorney-client privilege to do their jobs. Take protection seriously: a technology security firm recently demonstrated for The New York Times how simple it was to hack into major global companies’ computer systems — including law firms and corporate legal departments — via their video conferencing equipment.
As ubiquitous as video conferencing is today, it makes sense for the legal profession to embrace the technology for the good of their business — and their clients, said Levy. “To be able to see somebody face to face, it’s a very powerful tool,” he said. “You lose yourself in the conversation if the quality is good enough.”