The national coronavirus pandemic, and the unprecedented conditions of Stay Safe, Stay Home orders to protect public health, means that law firms are facing an ever-increasing number of uncertainties in managing their operations, payroll, staff, and finances. During this crisis, lawyers should remain mindful of their professional duties to the courts, clients, and non-clients. Nearly all in-person meetings have come to a halt as the world self isolates during the COVID-19 pandemic. Litigators, whose practices usually require in-person contact at mediations, depositions, and court proceedings, have rushed to find a way to keep their cases on track. As the public health crisis evolves, litigators are having to acclimate to a growing number of social distancing mandates, meaning Video conferencing in the age of COVID-19. Traditional in-person depositions are not feasible now, or in the weeks or possibly the months to come.
One way for litigators to avoid the breakdown of discovery is to shift depositions to video conferencing. But unlike the video conference meetings that many lawyers are familiar with, taking a deposition by this method requires advance planning of logistics and technology. For video conference virtual depositions to be successful, all participants should use desktops, laptops, or mobile devices that have working cameras, speakers, and microphones and in some cases, auxiliary speakers might need to be attached to the device. Cell phones should be the last resort in a virtual conference room. The first issue in regard to the video conference is what software your team will utilize. Your firm should conduct proper due diligence on the security procedures of any platform that will be used to convey confidential client information, determine whether the service uses encryption and password protection, and then research to determine whether the service has previously been susceptible to data breaches.
It is important not to use social media chat software such as Facebook Video Calling or Google Hangouts as the meeting software. These services may be good for catching up with family and friends during social distancing, but they are not appropriate for conducting client meetings for a number of reasons, the most important being that when an online service is provided free of charge, that normally means the users of the service and the users’ data are the products being sold to pay for the service. Do not use free social media services as they can jeopardize the security and confidentiality of your firm and your clients’ information.
Consider the following when determining whether the service will work for you:
Scheduling: The scheduling portion of the service should adequately sync with your law firm’s central calendar and provide proper notice to all necessary participants. You also may want to include periodic reminders to make no-shows less likely.
Meeting Size: You may find that many video conferencing platforms limit the number of participants that can join a call.
File Sharing: Do you need the ability to share legal files, videos, audio files or other information? Double-check that the platform can accomplish your goals.
Mobile App vs. Computer Software Downloads vs. Browser-Based Systems: Does the videoconferencing platform have a mobile app as well as computer software? Alternatively, is it simply browser-based, requiring no downloads at all? If so, consider whether that is desirable for your firm and other potential meeting participants.
Bandwidth: Many larger multi-way video calls consume substantial amounts of bandwidth. It is important to be sure that your system can accommodate the bandwidth needs of the platform you choose considering your firm’s usage requirements.
Recordings: Be aware of whether the system is creating a recording of your video conferences, and where those recordings are being stored – the cloud, computer, servers, or some combination of the three.
When considering the security of certain services before making a purchase, your firm should develop and train your law staff regarding appropriate video conferencing policies to ensure protection of all client information. Decide whether you will need to obtain participant permissions before starting or recording a video conference, including whether you need a client’s informed consent to transmit their confidential information via any platform. If you do plan to record and save the contents of the meeting, make a clear announcement to that effect before the meeting begins and again when any late comers arrive.
As well as utilizing video conferencing software for depositions, it can help minimize the potential spread of the virus, enabling many legal employees to work remotely, while state bar offices are temporarily closed to visitors. Working from home is not a new concept but working from home during a global pandemic is not normal. However, remote work in some form may be the new normal for the foreseeable future for many employers, even without safe-at-home orders. Managing your staff and helping them to meet or exceed standards under these conditions is equally difficult, but there are tools to help stay on track.
The first step is to define what success looks like now: It should include ensuring business continuity, healthy employees, and meeting goals. To reach those goals now, managers must adapt to changing operational conditions:
- Decide which standards are flexible. Look at your employee’s current office hours, their projects, and their upcoming deadlines.
- Have regular check-ins with your staff. Before the pandemic, one of the challenges of managing people remotely was the inability to see non-verbal reactions to information, projects, and learning opportunities. Now that videoconferencing is more reliable, that is less of an issue.
Use the following guidelines for videoconferencing:
- Use videoconferencing for presentations, wider group meetings, learning, coaching, and feedback.
- Use instant messaging for quick project updates, or questions. Instant messages are the remote employee’s equivalent of walking into someone’s office.
One-on-one meetings vary. Some can be held via phone, Skype, or Zoom. Video conferences can be held when meeting someone for the first time, although you may want to switch to phone calls or email updates in subsequent meetings depending upon the project and the person’s preferences.
Today’s legal practice management software solutions should allow you to handle everything in one platform. Your legal case management software should create new leads automatically when the phone rings or a text message is generated or received. It should create new leads automatically when you receive a referral or new lead.
And, finally, does your legal case management software let you do everything from intake to settlement? Your firm should use one all-in-one system for everything to keep it simple – does the current approach require you to send email newsletters and follow-ups from yet another program? What about text messages, time, and billing? Speaking of billing, Law Ruler software can deliver mobile phone text and email reminders to clients as well as automate follow up on unsigned contracts, waivers, NDAs and other documents all while improving conversion rates!
Before Law Ruler, no other system featured comprehensive legal case management software combined with the best legal intake CRM in the industry. No other legal software vendor has offered such a comprehensive solution before. When used in conjunction with videoconferencing, legal CRM and document and automation software is just what any law firm needs during the current health crisis.
Please book a tour to see what Law Ruler could do for you. During uncertain times, simplify your legal case management and increase your law firm’s profitability. Check out Law Ruler today on Twitter for firsthand knowledge of what they can do for you.