A case study in technological innovation. How are firms can utilising video conferencing to connect with their clients?
Dependent on which areas you specialise in, chances are you’ve got a wide variety of clients. The good, the bad, and the demanding. And you’re juggling their needs, worries and fears in addition to your own, those of your business, and all at the same time finding a spare half hour to actually practice the law.
And these needs, and associated demands, are constantly evolving. Can your practice keep pace?
Connecting with clients in a way that suits them is central to any forward-thinking organisation. Our recent Bellwether report into the evolution of the independent legal market, highlights that 78% of you see technological innovation as important in helping you grow your business. And with the exponential growth of Skype and other virtual conferencing, one could argue that it’s only a matter of time before video conferencing joins email, letter, and face-to-face as the go-to channel for client-lawyer relationships.
This interview provides a case study of video conferencing. What are the implications for client confidentiality? How easy is it to set up? And how could it contribute to forming the virtual law firm of the future?
This article was first published on Lexis®PSL on 29 August 2014. Click here for a free trial of Lexis®PSL. The views expressed by our Legal Analysis interviewees are not necessarily those of the proprietor.
Face time for law firms
Practice Management analysis: How are law firms making use of the new technology available to improve communication, both internally and with clients? Rebecca D’Agostino in business development at Langleys Solicitors, considers the advantages and some of the issues surrounding video conferencing and Skype in particular.
How can video conferencing be used by law firms?
We use video conferencing on a regular basis between offices. There have been substantial savings in inter-office travel costs and time efficiency. We also have a national client base and so it’s useful for clients who are unable to visit our office or who are simply too busy.
How easy is it to use?
It’s as easy as switching on a TV or computer. All that’s needed to use Skype, other than the software itself, is a computing device with a microphone and webcam and a decent internet connection. The software is relatively intuitive although limited training may be necessary for anyone who is not familiar with video conferencing.
Do clients like it?
Yes, although of course we are reliant on the quality of the equipment being used at their end, so sometimes the picture quality can be rather poor. The quality is also dependent on a decent internet connection at both ends. Faster internet speeds across the UK have gradually improved the quality of video conferencing but connections can still slow down at times, particularly in rural areas.
What are the pros and cons?
Initial set up costs could prove prohibitive for small firms in terms of ensuring that the software is installed correctly on computers and training staff on how to use it. Although Skype itself does not cost anything, other more advanced forms of video conferencing can be very expensive indeed.
Using video conferencing as an alternative to shuttling fee earners between offices can lead to significant savings over time, both in terms of travel expenses and, more importantly, time. The green credentials of firms can also be improved by reducing all those carbon emissions.
Are there any security concerns?
Client confidentiality is obviously paramount to any lawyer-client relationship. As Skype is a file sharing programme we strictly just use it for audio/video and do not use the instant messaging/file sharing due to security risks. Just as with any other type of computer application, it’s also vital that IT systems are maintained and updated to ensure that they remain secure.
Will video conferencing be used more extensively by law firms in the future?
It’s essential for law firms to keep up-to-date with modern technology to compete in the market place. Rising office rents, combined with the after-effects of the recession and a growing popularity in homeworking by many professionals, could potentially make video conferencing far more common in the future. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that some clients will prefer face-to-face communication. Although video conferencing can be an effective way for lawyers and clients to stay in touch, law firms will need to continue to cater for clients who are not comfortable with talking over a webcam. Even so-called ‘virtual law firms’ still need access to office space for client meetings.
Interviewed by Alex Heshmaty.
The views expressed by our Legal Analysis interviewees are not necessarily those of the proprietor.
So is video conferencing the way forward? Are your clients relishing the flexibility? Could this spell the death of the office? What are the alternatives? Let us know your thoughts.