Have You Considered Adding Video Conferencing to Your Practice?
According to a study conducted by the Legal Resource Technology Center of the American Bar Association, only about 20% of lawyers were using video conferencing in 2016. And, of those 20%, only about 4% were using video conferencing regularly. But, when compared to other businesses, that is far below average. Why? The study didn't reach that far, but there are several reasons why attorneys may not be using video conferencing. They may be skiddish about the technology, unsure about the security features, and unclear about how to make client confidentiality work in the context of both technology and security. But, other businesses are using these tools regularly because video conferencing can reduce travel and other related costs by as much as 30%.
Video conferencing comes with many benefits, particularly in a rural state such as Kansas where traveling to meet with clients can be costly and transportation can be an issue for many clients. Setting up video conferencing in one’s office can allow an attorney to meet with more clients in one day than would be possible by travel alone. And, it can allow the attorney to cover a wider catchment area as well, thereby potentially meeting needs in underserved areas.
The most important question to ask when considering video conferencing is what am I wanting this service to do for me? This question will allow you to sort through potential products and services out there in the realm of video conferencing to find the one that works best for you.
· Do you want to collaborate on documents with clients, share screens, and chat with clients and participants while on the conference?
· Will you use one room in the office for video conferencing that will remain set up with all of the necessary tools or will you be carrying your laptop around to do video conferencing on-the-go?
· Are you looking for a cloud-based service and, if so, what questions do you need to ask to know what happens after the call(s) – where is the data stored and what type of security is used?[i]
Additionally, the attorney will want to consider the cost of the product. There are some free products out there, but not many. A few, such as Zoom, will allow you to use the product for free up to 40 minutes and up to 50 participants, but if you want to add the additional features, support, and functionality, then you must pay for the service. And, this is true across the board. In order to have access to increased functionality and features, the attorney will need to pay for the service and the product.[ii]
When selecting a product, be sure to pick a tool that is easy to use. You will need to be competent on this tool so by picking one that is easy to master you will better ensure your ability to reach the level of competence. Also, your clients will need to use this product and if there is an excessive amount of downloading and technological sophistication needed to use it then you may have upset clients and decreased satisfaction with your services.
Support is an important feature to think about when considering video conferencing. Paying for a product will increase the accessibility to support and this will allow the attorney to focus on being the attorney on the call and not the tech expert. Thus, if the client has trouble logging in, or there is a problem with the platform, then there is someone else to call other than the attorney having to try to troubleshoot all of the tech issues along with the legal ones.[iii]
Some accessories may be necessary to make your video conferencing services flow. You will need a computer, security software, and the video-conferencing service. Zoom, Google Hangout, Skype for Business, WebX, and Go-to-Meeting are just a few of the services on the market today. You will want to explore the products available to find the right fit for your practice. Additionally, when setting up video conferencing in your practice you will want to make sure you have a high-quality webcam and headphones. Even if you are the only one in the room, or in the building, you may want to use headphones. Oftentimes, when speaking directly toward the computer it can leave a muffled echo that does not sound professional. You will want to test your sound quality prior to the first video conference with a client.[iv]
When considering any type of technology every attorney must consider the implications to client confidentiality. Given the range of ethical issues raised by using technology in a law practice, we must always try to identify appropriate security measures to keep client information safe and protected. Here are a few questions to ask regarding technology and data security at your firm:
· Are your physical, organizational and technological security measures adequate?
· Are you using firewalls and intrusion detection software appropriately?
· Are you using anti-malware software appropriately?
· Are there firm policies in place regarding technology use?
· Are firm lawyers and staff given adequate technology training?
· Do you have measures in place to ensure data integrity?
· Is your data backed-up?
· Are your passwords, other access restrictions and authentication protocols sufficient?
· Do you use encryption, where appropriate?
· When discarding equipment, do you take appropriate measures to guard against unauthorized disclosure of client information?
· Is there an incident response plan in place at your firm?[v]
Once a choice is made regarding a type of security, a video-conferencing product, and the place and type of storage for client information, all of this information should be listed in the client engagement letter providing notice to clients about how and where their information will be kept and secured by the firm.
Video conferencing can open your practice to new areas, new clients, and new possibilities. While there are many things to consider before jumping in to video conferencing, it can be an exciting opportunity to grow your practice. Before starting, you will want to remember to arrive at your conference early, every time, because software glitches happen, and you want to be prepared. If you are early to the conference, then you have a chance to troubleshoot problems and glitches. And, remember if you are on the screen, or in the room, then people can see you. You are always visible during a video conference, so be prepared to watch your mannerisms and facial expressions and be “on” for the entire call. [vi]
If you have any questions related to video conferencing, contact Sara Rust-Martin, KBA Law Practice Management Attorney, 785-861-8821, or firstname.lastname@example.org
[i] Why Video Conferencing Belongs in the Law Firm. Law Technology Today. (May 12, 2017).
[ii] Why Video Conferencing Belongs in the Law Firm. Law Technology Today. (May 12, 2017).
[iii] Why Video Conferencing Belongs in the Law Firm. Law Technology Today. (May 12, 2017).
[iv] Why Video Conferencing Belongs in the Law Firm. Law Technology Today. (May 12, 2017).
[v] Legal Ethics in a Digital World, The Canadian Bar Ass’n (2014).
[vi] Why Video Conferencing Belongs in the Law Firm. Law Technology Today. (May 12, 2017).