For many years, Harold German has been recognized as a knowledgeable source for information on corporate branding methodologies. Mr. German is an author and contributor, with appearances in noted international publications such as The Economist. He covers IP networks and the future of conferencing technologies.
Published November 20, 2005
With so many efficiency-boosting technologies available today to help you manage and grow your law firm, it is sometimes difficult to identify the right ones to implement. Given recent trends, it is abundantly clear that law firms are focusing their investments on technologies that can have the greatest impact on growing their bottom line. Due to its numerous benefits, including significant productivity gains, cost savings and employee safety, video conferencing is at the top of the list.
Law firms have used video conferencing for many years but it is now becoming a tool that can be used to market your practice.
Over the last three years, more companies have turned to video conferencing as a way to communicate and collaborate with partners and customers. There are many reasons for this; among them are: increased global terrorism, travel costs and loss of productivity. Law firms can leverage this phenomenon by using video conferencing to add value to their business offerings. By providing clients with the ability to access the firm through video communications, sessions become more convenient, flexible and productive. The firm can also introduce resources that may be located in other parts of the country. In today’s fast-paced world, offering your client more convenient and flexible ways to work with them will go a long way towards improving your business relationships.
Positioning this new feature as a marketable tool is a simple process. Firms can look to their web sites as a way to quickly present video conferencing as a unique, differentiating firm asset. The Internet is becoming one of the main marketing mediums for law firms and readying your site with a page that outlines this time-saving feature will drive the point to your clients and prospects. Make sure to include imagery of the equipment in usage, some content outlining how this technology will enhance your service and a detailed list of the equipment you have.
With video conferencing becoming a more attractive technology for law firms, popular thinking seems to indicate that now is the time to get your firm started with video conferencing, but not surprisingly, many firms encounter unnecessary technical obstacles and set backs due to poor planning.
Here are some questions you should ask before getting started with video conferencing:
1) How will you be utilizing video conferencing? Can video depositions and video-based communications help grow my practice?
For many law firms, video conferencing is first used as a way to reduce traveling for internal meetings between practices located in different cities. But there are other factors to consider. How far are the courthouses your firm serves? Do they allow video depositions or other video-based communication for legal procedures? Are some of the firm’s clients equipped with video conferencing?
If the addition of video conferencing will save many, or all, of your attorneys significant amounts of time in commuting and improve the productivity of their work day, then video conferencing will definitely help to grow your practice.
2) What kind of resources will be needed?
With respect to network considerations, although many firms still use ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network), for optimal business quality video conferencing, it is recommended that you use an IP (Internet Protocol) network. If you have 384 kilobytes of bandwidth available to and from each video conferencing device, you should be able to enjoy a good quality video call. Realize however, that if your network is shared with other resources, it may compromise the quality of your conferences. A dedicated network specifically for video conferencing, or a managed IP video network like IVCi’s IntelliNet, would ensure the best user experience.
Once you define your network, you need someone to manage it. Will you? Your IT department? Does your firm have an IT department? Although, your firm’s technical staff may be able to manage your conferencing network, there are more efficient ways to ensure steady and healthy performance of your video conferences. Some conferencing providers perform ‘managed services’ that take all of the work out of your hands. IVCi’s Managed Conferencing Services, for instance, allows you to reap all of the benefits of video conferencing and eliminates your need to purchase expensive network equipment and hire additional support staff.
3) How many of your attorneys have used the technology before and are ready to implement it into their work day?
Talk with your attorneys and identify those individuals who are ready to reap immediate benefits from the technology; those who would be ready and willing to start using video conferencing right away.
4) How much ROI can I expect?
Once you define the extent of usage, you can calculate the amount of time that your attorneys will be freed up to work on other cases. In many instances, the time saved adds up to dozens of hours per month, per attorney. With more time available, they can work on additional cases, thus growing the practice.
5) Have I created the right budget?
As with most technology implementations, video conferencing is best executed in phases. Features that satisfy the most important needs of the practice should be implemented in the first phase. Define what you need, find out what it costs and budget for that phase. As need and demand grow, you can budget for future implementations as they arise. Always work with conferencing providers that create scalable solutions.
6) Can I afford video conferencing?
Do some simple math. Once you define how much usage your firm will have (question 3), you can compare that figure to your budget (question 4).
The Law Firm of the Future
The law firm of the future will look very much like the wired enterprise of today. It will consist of a team of attorneys who are plugged into a collaborative network that allows them to share ideas, plans and strategies, instantly and seamlessly. Each attorney will be able to leverage the firm’s global skills and knowledge at any time, regardless of the physical location of those resources. By properly leveraging conferencing solutions, lawyers could double, or triple, the number of face-to-face (and billable) client sessions they hold each day, while decreasing their time in the office. Interestingly enough, the technology to create the scenario above is already available and ready for deployment. In essence, the law firm of tomorrow is really the intelligent law firm of today.