Home » Uncategorized » Blog Post 5 for 11/18: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Videoconferencing for Client Meetings

Blog Post 5 for 11/18: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Videoconferencing for Client Meetings

With the advancement of electronic technology, many law firms are now investing in hardware and software systems to facilitate their office routines. Some lawyers are using videoconferencing through computer software packages, such as Skype, to meet with their clients. Law firms are particularly receptive to the idea of videoconferencing because it can reduce the need for in-person meetings, thereby saving time, reducing traveling expenses, and bolstering productivity. For in-person meetings, lawyers have to spend more time in traveling, (sometimes even out-of-town) to meet with their clients. Traveling expenses, such as lodging, mileage, and airfare, can be costly. Besides, when the lawyers are traveling to in-person meetings, their colleagues or their other clients may not be able to easily reach them. Thus, the lawyers will not be able to promptly attend to their other responsibilities (http://apps.americanbar.org/litigation/committees/technology/articles/winter2012-videoconferencing-in-person-meeting.html).


Apart from saving time and money, videoconferencing has other advantages. If clients are comfortable with using videoconferencing as a means of communication, the lawyers may be able to communicate with the clients more frequently and provide regular status updates throughout the litigation process. As such, the clients may feel that the lawyers are more engaged in the case, and this can engender a greater sense of satisfaction. In addition, scheduling meetings between lawyers and clients will be easier, as the parties will not have to travel to a certain place for the meeting. This can be especially helpful if it is inconvenient for the clients to travel due to distance, accessibility, or time (http://apps.americanbar.org/litigation/committees/technology/articles/winter2012-videoconferencing-in-person-meeting.html).


Furthermore, the investment in videoconferencing systems may provide long-term benefits. The initial installation costs (including equipment and software package) may seem expensive; however, once the systems are set up, the law firms can reap the benefits of technology for several years to come. Thus, this may be a worthwhile investment in legal practice (http://www.americanbar.org/ newsletter/publications/technology_e_report_home/ 2005_sep_videoconferencing.html).


Notwithstanding all of these advantages, videoconferencing does have some drawbacks. Most importantly, there is always the risk that the technology will malfunction. For example, there can be a poor Internet connection. The sound or video can be distorted or muffled in the middle of the conversation. But these instances of technical difficulties will reflect poorly on the lawyers and their firms (http://apps.americanbar.org/litigation/committees/technology/articles/winter2012-videoconferencing-in-person-meeting.html).


In addition to technical glitches, lawyers need to be careful about possible ethics violations. Lawyers must ascertain that the attorney-client privileges are maintained while using videoconferencing to talk to their clients. They need to take steps to ensure that third parties will not overhear their confidential conversations. For example, in settlement negotiations, if the lawyers are using videoconferencing between the parties, the lawyers and their clients may need to mute the microphones or turn off the video cameras for a short time and confer with each other by telephone. The lawyers also have to ensure that the applicable security features are installed in the videoconferencing systems to avoid a breach of the lawyers’ ethical duties to their clients. (http://apps.americanbar.org/litigation/committees/technology/articles/winter2012-videoconferencing-in-person-meeting.html).


Logistically, videoconferencing can be cumbersome. For example, it is easier for clients to share important documents with the lawyers during in-person meetings, especially if the lawyers need to see the original copies of the documents. Besides, if the clients have multiple documents to share with the lawyers, it may be harder for the clients to scan and email all of these documents. In-person meetings are also simpler if the lawyers require original signatures from the clients. Under these circumstances, a brief in-person meeting to exchange documents and acquire signatures may be a better option (http://apps.americanbar.org/litigation/committees/technology/articles/winter2012-videoconferencing-in-person-meeting.html).


In addition, videoconferencing may not be as effective as in-person meetings for developing professional relationships. This is especially the case for initial meetings, as many clients may feel more comfortable in talking to their lawyers face to face. The friendly and personable environment during in-person meetings may encourage the clients to share personal experiences or secrets, such as intricate details about a personal injury or a divorce case, with their lawyers. The physical presence and the closer proximity between the parties can improve communication and promote interpersonal interactions. Besides, through off-camera observations, the clients can have a better feeling of the personalities of their lawyers and a better sense of their relationships. The clients may also appreciate their lawyers more when they deliberately take the time to come and meet with them in person. This often can help lawyers to build rapport with their clients and cultivate positive attorney-client relationships. Although the law firm’s finances are definitely important, positive relationships with clients are also vital. Clients who are content are more likely to seek this same lawyer for future legal services, and they can be a source of referral for the lawyer and his firm. This will be extremely useful for new associates or new firms who are just joining the legal community and trying to build their client base (http://apps.americanbar.org/litigation/committees/technology/articles/winter2012-videoconferencing-in-person-meeting.html).


For subsequent follow-up meetings, the lawyers may find that it is sufficient to conduct videoconferences. Before doing so, lawyers should check with their clients and ascertain their preferences. Some clients may not have the software capabilities to conduct videoconferences. Other clients may not be as technologically savvy and may prefer to meet in person. In the long run, these simple acts of courtesy will bode well for developing good working relationships between the lawyers and the clients (http://apps.americanbar.org/litigation/committees/technology/articles/winter2012-videoconferencing-in-person-meeting.html).


Hence, before a law firm decides on whether to invest in a videoconferencing system, the law firm should consider both its advantages and disadvantages.

-Clarence Ling