Technology is an essential part of any modern practicing attorney’s toolkit. In Tad’s Tech Corner, join me as I discuss how to best utilize technology– both from a device and software standpoint– during your daily lawyering tasks and during trial. Discussions, as always, are welcome in the comments section below.
— Tad Thomas
Virtual conferencing offers a lot of potential for lawyers. Whether you’re using videoconferences for client meetings, lawyer conferences, or out-of-town depositions, it’s important to understand how best to utilize and optimize your virtual meeting experience.
Lawyers have a lot of options when it comes to virtual conferences. While there are free tools out there, the paid-for versions often include a vast array of features designed to streamline the video experience. In order to do what’s best for your law firm, let’s take a look at what you should consider when choosing a virtual meeting tool, how to ensure a successful setup, and what considerations to keep in mind when running a meeting.
Choosing an Online Collaboration Tool
There are so many choices for meeting tools. While there isn’t necessarily one that’s the best, it’s important to understand the difference between the most popular tools, especially the ones geared toward lawyers, so you can choose the best platform for the type of meeting you’re holding. For example, if you’re looking to have a quick chat through video, consider using Slack or Teams.
Because you’ll likely be discussing confidential information when having a virtual meeting, it’s important to ensure your client’s information is protected. You have a legal obligation to thoroughly vet the technology provider that will be hosting and storing your data.
For most lawyers, standard transport encryption will be a sufficient security method. That type of security is already built into tools you probably use, like Gmail. If you determine end-to-end encryption is needed for a client’s case, there are a few options to consider. One of the most popular is Zoom. There is also a program called Legaler, which is specifically designed for legal professionals. You can schedule, host, record, and archive secure video meetings with multiple participants and screen sharing.
As you probably know, Zoom is currently the leader in modern enterprise video communications. The software offers an easy, reliable cloud platform for video and audio conferencing, collaboration, chat, and webinars. It can be accessed across mobile devices, desktops, telephones, and even room systems.
If you’re utilizing Zoom to connect with clients, it’s important to understand the program’s security features and what steps you need to take to protect your client and their sensitive information. For example, you’ll want to make sure you utilize passwords. When you set up a room or meeting, the involved parties will have to have access to the meeting ID and password to join. Remember to choose a strong password and ask your participants to protect the password like they would with their own accounts.
There’s also the waiting room feature you should consider utilizing. This allows you, as the host, to control when a participant joins a meeting. You can admit attendees one at a time or hold all attendees in the waiting room and admit them all at once when everyone has arrived.
Testing the Technology
As an attorney, you operate on a tight schedule. Nothing could throw that schedule off more than a 15-minute delay in a video conference because of technology issues. Prior to any virtual meeting, make sure everyone, including yourself, tests the tool to ensure they are comfortable with the major features.
This means that hours or even days prior to the meeting, send the access information to your clients or peers who are participating. This will give them time to, if necessary, download software and ensure they have what they need to be prepared for the meeting. If issues arise, they can be addressed before the meeting. Consider providing an audio dial-in option, in the event a strong internet connection isn’t available. Also, remember that hard-wired connections are between than Wifi when using video conferencing. While they’re not always as convenient, particularly in regard to setup, it will improve your chances of having a successful call.
Choosing Your Location
Depending on your situation, you may be working from the office, a coffee shop, or your home. While a coffee shop or café isn’t an appropriate location for a virtual conference, you can easily make your home or office work.
For any video meeting, you’ll want to make sure you have a clean, solid background and ample lighting. If your clients or peers can see you or are distracted by your space, your meeting won’t be as efficient. In the event you’re holding the meeting at home, make sure distractions, like children or pets, won’t be able to access your space at the time of the meeting.
If necessary, have a headset. Not only will this decrease the chances of running into audio level issues, but you’ll also be sure that you will be the only person to hear the other side of the conversation.
Online Meeting Etiquette
Even if you use the right tools, it’s important to consider online meeting etiquette. This will ensure your meeting will be as effective as possible. Some online conference etiquette tips include:
- Being prepared. Even if you have a digital presentation prepared, make sure you have your notes together. You may need to reference them during the meeting, and this will make sure the meeting stays on track.
- Keeping the number of distractions down. Whether you’re leading the virtual conference or just attending another lawyer’s meeting, remember to keep the number of distractions to a minimum. This means turning off alerts, applications, and other potential interruptions. Make sure your environment is calm and quiet.
- Encouraging participation. While you will have the option of muting mics to prevent background noise from others listening, it’s important to encourage participation. Unmute mics as necessary and allow speaking points at times so the conference meeting is productive.
Whether you’re setting up your very first virtual conference or you’ve done it dozens of times, it’s important to understand how to optimize the experience for yourself and those attending. With the tips above, you’ll be on track to holding successful meetings no matter where you are or what they’re about.
Interview with Matt Meyerkord