Written By Benjamin Cheong, Ko Cheng De & Cho Qing Jin
First published on 8 February 2018
A. BENEFITS OF ADOPTING AUDIO/VIDEO CONFERENCING SOFTWARE
In recent years, businesses have been relying heavily on information and digital technology to enhance work productivity. Yet, many lawyers do not utilise modern technology when deciding to hold a discussion with co-workers, clients, or counterparties. Often, the first mode of conducting the discussion is either setting a physical meeting or a conference call through the telephone.
However, such “traditional” modes have their drawbacks. Arranging a physical meeting requires detailed planning to suit the attendees’ schedules. Furthermore, a telephone conference call does not allow for the perception of the other party’s thoughts and emotions through observing their facial expressions and body language. Audio/video conferencing software eliminates the two drawbacks of the “traditional” modes stated above. First, such software allows parties to communicate online without the need to travel to the same meeting venue. In addition, the video capabilities of the software allow participants to feel as though they are physically present in the same room. This is beneficial when all participants are located in different countries or time zones.
Moreover, popular enterprise solutions have also developed other features that are essential to a law firm’s case management. Given the prevalence of smartphones and tablets, lawyers should also consider using other simpler (or free) applications available on these platforms.
B. USEFUL FEATURES IN AVAILABLE SOFTWARE
The key to any law firm’s work is effective case management. This requires an effective collaboration of all involved parties, an effective scheduling of meetings, and timekeeping. Many enterprise conferencing solutions have developed various features that assist case management. Law firms may wish to consider adopting conferencing software with such features, alongside their existing case management solutions.
1. Effective collaboration amongst participants of a conference
Popular audio/video conferencing software often have features allowing for screen sharing and real-time document review and editing. Screen sharing features allow other parties in the conference to view, but not control the screen of the party (host) who shares it. As the audio/video conference proceeds, participants can view the changes being made to a document while the host is editing the document.
Real-time document review and editing features allow participants to virtually “meet and collaborate” as if they were working in the same room. Participants may communicate, view, annotate and edit documents at the same time. The documents incorporate changes based on all participants’ edits. There is thus avoidance of multiple redrafting and repeated sending of these documents to all parties involved.
2. Assisting in the scheduling of meetings and timekeeping
Many enterprise conferencing solutions have various timekeeping functions that are important for case management. Scheduling capabilities allow for the effective arrangement of meetings. Automatic reminder functions assist in reminding clients and lawyers of the scheduled conference.
Specifically, the scheduling capabilities allow the sending of electronic conference invitations to all participants. The invitations are usually compatible with common calendar applications found in both smartphones and tablets. This means that participants can review the conference invitations easily. Free websites such as www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/meeting.html allow users to schedule meetings or conference calls across different time zones.
Upon receipt of such invitations, the participant’s electronic calendar will be updated with the scheduled meeting. A conference host may utilise reminder functions to prompt all participants, lawyers or clients, of an upcoming meeting. A conference host may usually schedule an automatic reminder to notify a participant through the settings of an invitation.
Finally, popular enterprise conferencing solutions may also have call duration logs. These call duration logs are useful sources of reference where timekeeping is concerned. By using these logs, lawyers may bill a client the exact amount of time based on the length of the conference call.
A law firm intending to adopt these enterprise conferencing solutions should also consider acquiring additional hardware such as an all-in-one video camera, speaker and microphone. This is especially so when the firm’s workstations/laptops are not fitted with such hardware.
C. USE OF SIMPLER (AND FREE) APPLICATIONS
Simpler (and even free) applications (apps) on smartphones and tablets may also be utilised for audio/video conferencing. Examples of smarphone and tables applications with video call function is the popular instant messaging app “WhatsApp”, “Facebook Messenger” and “Line”.
While these applications do not have the functions of the enterprise conferencing solutions for multiple parties, these applications are still useful for quick one–one discussions with a client. In the case of a firm that does not have the resources (nor need) to maintain an enterprise conference solution, the firm may still utilise these free applications for instant communication with its clients. Finally, some of these applications may also be popular with users from certain countries. For example, the application “Line” is popular in Indonesia and “WeChat” is popular in China. Where a law firm has numerous clients from these countries and there is a need to consult the clients on certain matters, the firm may save on international dialling charges if these free applications are used. This would help to lower the costs of a matter and translates to overall cost savings for the client and lower overheads for the firm.
The usage of audio/video conferencing software allows law firms to reduce costs, whilst increasing productivity and efficiency at the same time. In this increasingly globalising legal landscape, the ability to transgress previous limitations through hosting of collaborative conferences world is a particularly defining reason for such reliance, given that parties may be in different parts of the world.
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