In light of the spread of COVID-19, many lawyers are looking for ways to continue meeting with their clients and other parties while keeping some distance from them. Fortunately, we are in an age where technology makes it easy to implement social distancing efforts that many individuals and businesses are now undertaking. This blog post will cover two tools that will allow lawyers to work and maintain social distance: (1) video conferencing and (2) remote access.
Video conferencing is a great alternative to in-person meetings that saves on travel expenses and is fairly easy to use. It allows participants to hold online face-to-face video meetings using their computer or mobile device with built-in cameras, speakers, and microphones. It includes the ability to share screens and set up virtual conference rooms for attendees to click, join, and collaborate.
While there are many options for video conferencing services, this blog post will cover only a few services that offer a free plan in addition to their paid ones. Many video conferencing services share the same basic features, including:
Conference call – offers audio-only meetings.
Screen-sharing – allows other participants to view files even if they don’t have the software needed to open the files on their computer. It helps boost collaboration when all participants are able to access and see the same information during the meeting.
Recording - allows audio or video recording of meetings saved either to your computer or the cloud (in your account).
Meeting duration – limits the duration of each meeting.
Desktop & mobile access – allows participants to join the conference on their desktop computer or mobile device.
Participant capacity – limits the maximum number of participants in each meeting.
Online whiteboard – allows users to draw, write, and take notes for everyone to see.
Here is a comparison chart of some conferencing services. The chart includes features from their free plan as well as features from their paid service starting with the most affordable plan. Due to limited space, the chart does not include every feature. This chart also has links to the companies' security and privacy policies. A few services offer end-to-end encryption on their video calls (e.g., Cisco Webex and LifeSize) while others do not explicity state this on their website. Please do your own review of their security information and privacy policies.
Law firms that are asking their lawyers to work from home should provide some options for lawyers to access their files and other information on their work computer. This is probably not a problem for lawyers who save all of their client files in the cloud. Even if that is the case, there may still be desktop programs and applications on a lawyer’s work computer that he or she needs to effectively work from home. This type of access typically requires the use of remote access technology. I’ve written a blog on different options for remote access available here.
COVID-19 presents many challenges to lawyers as they may see their business dwindling. But this challenging time may provide an opportunity for lawyers to try something new—a different way to deliver legal services. Consider adopting some features of a virtual law firm to help you move your legal services online. For more information on what a virtual law firm is, please read my article titled Beyond Brick and Mortar: Virtual Law Firms Shift Delivery of Legal Services Online published in the Bar Bulletin, January 2020.
I also recently presented a CLE on automating the client intake process that allows lawyers to do many tasks online, such as scheduling, payment, and signing. That CLE that is now available for free on the PLF’s website. To order this CLE, click here or go to www.osbplf.org > CLE > Past > “More Than Just a Click: Automating the Client Intake Process.”
-- Updated 4/2/20