In November, 2004, Minnesota Lawyer published an interesting article on the use of videoconference for legal applications. The author, Michelle Lore pointed out many of the benefits and the technological advances of the day that made videoconference reliable, effective and more economical. http://www.joanmorrow.com/mnlawyer_article.pdf
In the nearly 10 years since that article was published, there have been many technological changes. But, the benefits stay the same.
· “It’s like having (the mediator) in the room.”
· “Frankly, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to operate it.”
· “…they can do it on a very cost-effective basis and not have lost anything in the process.”
· “…attorneys agree that the videoconferencing process is an effective alternative to traveling.”
· “It’s a nice efficient way to have a mediation that might not otherwise be available.”
But, in 10 years, the difference is that the technology is even more reliable, easier to use and more economical. It is possible now to do this at virtually no cost, with free services, assuming you have a webcam, a microphone and an internet connection.
“Free" is not necessarily free, if there are issues with the delivery. Free services may not be as reliable or easy to access as low-cost paid services. Some free services are limited in the number of participants that are capable of joining the conference with bandwidth limitations. And, if you have documents, pictures, desktop applications or video to share, you may be out of luck.
But, the biggest concern with free services is security. Legal consultations should be conducted in private. In a legal environment, one should ask “is the videoconference encrypted?” Does it allow you to “lock” the room and not allow any unauthorized participants to join and “listen in”? Does it allow you to set a “PIN” number and only pass that out to individuals you want or need in the consultation? Does it allow you completely control the meeting as a host, by giving you control to mute participants, mute their video or speakers for a private conversation, or allow you to disconnect them if the need arises? Does it allow you to “chat” privately with a colleague or participant? Does it have recording and playback capability?
In 10 years, all this is now easy to accomplish – reliability, security, and features.
State of the art videoconference systems make it simple to connect, stay connected and add in as many participants as you need. It is simple to share content and simple to privately “chat” with select participants to emphasize or clarify a point, or record the conference for future reference.
10 years ago, Michelle Lore quoted a price of $5,000 to $10,000 for the equipment to set up a videoconference facility and that limited the experience to one room and a connection to a similar codec system on the other end.
Today, we can provide the same quality, reliability and security to virtually any device, on any network. Whether, you are connecting to a pc, MAC, iPad, iPhone, Android Device or a legacy videoconference Room (and by the way, even telephone connected participants can join the audio portion), anyone, anywhere on the internet around the globe to join in with high quality and low-latency connections. It is no longer necessary to have a dedicated system unless you wish to have one.
Hosted systems with no commitment start at $24.95 per month for up to 4 participants for up to 5 hours and can be adjusted monthly to accommodate usage. Inexpensive – effective – ubiquitous and full of features, it opens up new opportunities for legal professionals to become more effective.
Dave Desmarais is President & Founder of Perinata Inc., a firm specializing in cost-effective remote solutions for Communications, Broadcast and Electronic Events.
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