The Benefits of Videoconferencing for the Legal Profession

Legal technologies, such as real-time court reporting and presentation software, have transformed the legal profession, bringing it to the 21st century. While videoconferencing isn’t necessarily new to the legal profession, it has become easier to use and less expensive than in the past. Not only that, videoconferencing technology has improved dramatically, delivering crystal clear, high definition sound and images. If your law firm’s travel expenses need to be trimmed, consider videoconferencing as a solution.

Videoconferencing Benefits

Eliminate travel expenses. With videoconferencing, travel becomes unnecessary. For example, rather than traveling between branch offices to meet with your firm’s partners and associates or traveling to a distant city to meet with prospective clients, consider holding a videoconference. Doing so saves you airfare, lodging, and other travel expenses. If you regularly send a team of lawyers and support staff, these costs quickly add up.

Improve productivity. Videoconferences also improve productivity because less time is spent traveling to and from far off sites. Rather than spending a full day traveling across country and another full day on your return trip, schedule a videoconference and recoup those lost travel days.

Pre-qualify expert witnesses. Holding a videoconference with prospective expert witnesses allows you to make better selection decisions. For example, not only will you save time and money by interviewing potential witnesses using a videoconference, you will also be able to see how the witness appears on camera.

Provide recorded documentation. Videoconference recordings are helpful after the fact as you can review portions of the conference at any time as well as share the videoconference with colleagues who were unable to attend.

Videoconferencing Options

While you may agree that videoconferencing delivers the above benefits and more, you may be concerned about investing in videoconferencing equipment. Fortunately, plenty of options exist. In fact, you may never need to invest in equipment at all!

Videoconferencing is possible using a pair of webcam-equipped laptops or PCs and video communications software such as WebEx, Google Talk, or Skype as well as via smartphones equipped with high definition videoconferencing tools. While these technologies are fine for informal conferences amongst your team, you’ll want a more robust solution for larger videoconferences involving clients and external legal professionals.

A better other option is to rent a videoconference suite at a videoconferencing facility as needed. These facilities exist in most major cities, allowing your team to coordinate with others scattered across the U.S. – or even the world.

Though renting a videoconference room is far more convenient than traveling, it is still necessary to commute to an offsite location. If you’d rather keep your team in the office, consider hiring a litigation support service on an as-needed basis for onsite video conferencing. With this option, the support service delivers and sets up teleconferencing equipment in your existing conference room. After the videoconference, the support service removes the equipment and leaves you with a copy of the recording if desired.

Now that technology has made videoconferencing a viable solution for busy legal professions, how will you put it to good use? Share your experiences below.

How Are the Banking and Legal Sectors Embracing AI And Document Automation Software?

Whether we like it or not, we are moving towards a more seamlessly automated era in both business and domestic life – with technology such as Amazon’s Echo “Alexa” already becoming part of daily routines. As Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) continues to shape and accelerate the way we handle information and process data, this advancement is also leading to an increase in business efficiency.

According to a recent study by Accenture, A.I. has the potential to boost rates of profitability by US$14 trillion in gross value added (GVA) by 2035. In statistics published in the same report, the Financial Services industry alone can capitalise on AI technologies to “relieve workers from mundane, repetitive tasks such as generic customer queries and mortgage reviews” – benefitting from US$1.2 trillion in additional GVA by 2035.

When initially invented, there were fears that Artificial Intelligence could take complete control and dominate content production like the novel-writing machines in George Orwell’s 1984. However, this technology is proving itself as a being game-changing, with an upturn in adoption of A.I. demonstrating that any initial fears around have been effectively overcome.

Technological progression is nothing new and nothing to fear – ever since the industrial revolution of the late 1700s, the world has seen factory jobs replaced by robotics, typewriters replaced by PCs and many more examples of technological advances. It has often been assumed that roles held by humans are somewhat safe, protected and irreplaceable for tasks that are data, intellect and language-driven – such as the creation of contracts and other legal documentation. This is still true to a certain extent, but many barriers around logic are becoming overcome through smarter use of document automation.

Advanced productivity tools in the A.I. landscape within the legal world have led to increased optimism and positivity, as technology now has the power to parse documents and sift through them in the search for relevant information to perform basic human tasks. This A.I. technique is known as natural language processing and is used to scan, extract information and then accurately only predict information that is only relevant to certain legal cases or claims.

This positivity around data-rich business boosting A.I. is backed up by legal giant, Baker McKenzie, who state that: “despite previous bouts of hype, a number of commentators believe that renewed interest in A.I. is justified. Continual and rapid advances in computing power, as well as dramatic declines in the cost of computing have led to an explosion in the amount and availability of data – all of which becomes fodder to optimise A.I. algorithms.”

Trust in A.I.-driven technology has continued to develop over the past decade, with a number of multinational banks and law firms embracing this technology. Some of the world’s more innovative companies in these sectors have already rolled out automatic contract analysis and automatic document production tools. Data can now be routinely extracted and documents created quickly and in an error-free format – helping to achieve compliance and minimise risk.

Dana Remus, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, and Frank Levy, a labor economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studied the main automation opportunities that are available to lawyers at large law firms. Their paper concluded that putting all new legal technology in place immediately would result in an estimated that technology could free up lawyers’ hours by 13%.

Their research also suggested that basic document review has already been outsourced or automated at large law firms, with only 4% of lawyers’ time now commonly spent on this task.

There are a number of software companies providing the pioneering technology to enable the integration of machine learning and automated document production and analysis – these include: Kira, Cognitiv+, eBrevia, Luminance and Leverton.

One of the world’s top ten law firms has recently rolled out an innovative example of using Kira and document automation together for a matter involving a client facing thousands of dispute-related claims. Kira automatically extracted information from an internally developed case management system, pushed key information to the document automation software which then generated the documents the client needed. The law firm’s innovation team found that the combination of technologies created an agile and complete solution by harmonising an approach of both A.I. and document automation.

Another successful example of similar automation technology being harnessed includes MarginMatrix, a joint venture between Allen & Overy and Deloitte, which automatically drafts legal documents to help banks comply with new financial regulations. The tool reportedly cuts down the time taken to manually handle 10,000 contracts (on average that any major bank holds) from over 15 years in lawyer hours to just 12 weeks.

This automation and machine learning approach has also been rolled out at JPMorgan Chase & Co., to analyse financial deals. The COIN program, for Contract Intelligence, does the repetitive task of interpreting commercial-loan agreements that, until the project went online in June, consumed 360,000 hours of work each year by lawyers and loan officers. The software reviews documents in seconds, is less error-prone and never asks for annual leave.

Commercial banks and law firms are under more pressure than ever to “churn out” contracts, loan agreements and complex documents, which increases the risk of incorrect information and data errors. By using A.I. and automatic generation of contracts and agreements, the difficulties in creating legal documentation are reduced and the rate of production increased dramatically.

The world is also constantly demanding delivery models that are cheaper, faster, better. Recent developments give us a lot to be positive about in the coming years to make this happen and we must realise that complete automation will not happen overnight. Blending existing practices in document automation with A.I. will continue to reap rewards in efficiency. Co-existence is the best way forward and A.I. is not here to steal your job, well at least not for some time to come…

Why Are So Many Legal Entities Turning to Consulting Firms to Outsource Their IT?

A legal entity is one in which an organization is permitted to legally enter into a contract with a different party and be subject to lawsuits if they do not keep their contractual obligations. Every legal entity has IT, or information technology, needs. IT involves the use of computers and telecommunications to receive, store and transmit information. An interesting fact is that recently the question has come up as to why more and more legal entities are turning to external sources for legal IT needs. We will explore those reasons here.

After the new creation of any business, legal entity or otherwise, the owner will usually be able to maintain every part of the business at first, including information technology needs. As the business begins to grow, however, and more employees hop on board, it becomes apparent just how unmanageable everything is to one person or group of people. This is when it becomes necessary to understand the benefits and reasons why more and more legal entities are turning to external sources for legal IT needs. A legal entity needs time, money and manpower to manage every money-making part of the business. Wasting such valuable resources on something that can easily be outsourced is an unwise business move.

Today, businesses in general are struggling to make more out of less, and legal entities are no exception. Money is tighter than ever and in an effort to save cash, legal entities in the past attempted to complete all their legal IT needs by themselves. As time has gone by and more experience has been had by these companies, they are coming to a realization that outsourcing can actually be less expensive. By outsourcing technology needs, a business can benefit from having a separate full-time staff of professional IT workers at a fraction of the cost of attempting to do it all yourself. External sources that specialize in IT services can offer such benefits as website hosting, computer networking and overall IT support. This crucial part of any business simply cannot be overlooked, and it is becoming apparent why more and more legal entities are turning to external sources for legal IT needs.

Apart from saving money, a legal entity can also save valuable time by outsourcing technology needs. This gives the owners and employees alike the freedom of more time to focus their efforts on advantageous daily procedures. The only large, very developed companies that should not be outsourcing their information technology needs to an outside service provider should be the IT service providers themselves. You created the legal entity you own to deliver contractual services to your customers, not to focus on keeping the technology up and running! The simple truth is that most companies will save significantly valuable time, money and energy by seeking an external source to take care of these issues, another reason why more and more legal entities are turning to external sources for legal IT needs. What a legal entity and any other business should be focusing their time, money and other resources on are things that will increase company income.

Marketing products is an essential part of any legal entity. Marketing is what draws leads and allows a company to succeed. Another reason why more and more legal entities are turning to external sources for legal IT needs is because they want to focus on marketing and generating leads. Along those lines, establishing customer-employee relationships and being able to provide outstanding customer service and support is an important focus. Obviously legal entities hope to stay out of legal baffles as much as possible, and if the main focus is on IT needs and not on the specific needs of the company, such goals may not be achieved.

It has been discussed that once a company becomes large and established enough it may become time to outsource the IT needs. How do you know when that time has come? You be the judge. When it seems to you like the demands of the internal information technology department are negatively impacting the more business related activities, then that is a sign that it may be time to go to an external source for help. A legal entity should never feel crippled by its IT department. If it becomes apparent that progress is slowing down due to the need to purchase more computers and other supplies for the IT workers, this is another sign. When the resources you currently have for completing IT tasks becomes insufficient, instead of spending more on supplies and expanding the internal department, seriously consider the reasons why more and more legal entities are turning to external sources for legal IT needs.

The obvious disadvantages of ignoring the need to outsource IT needs are many. Apart from the other points already mentioned including waste of time, money and resources when done internally, IT staff require benefits. When you have an internal department, you will have to provide those benefits, as well as time and resources to get new staff trained. You also can easily end up overpaying an internal IT staff member because the agreed upon salary is usually not based on the actual amount of work they will be completing. The disadvantages of internally hiring IT staff greatly outweigh the benefits, making it obvious why more and more legal entities are turning to external sources for legal IT needs.

Legal entities can become severely stuck in a rut of no progression if they refuse to outsource to an external information technology service provider. This is why more and more legal entities are turning to external sources for legal IT needs. They recognize the need to grow their company and understand that turning to the option of outsourcing is a very useful way to attain the desired growth.

Do YOU really have the time, money, and patience to handle things such as desktop and laptop maintenance, server installations and application management, databases, network infrastructure, and customized software development?

Technology Charges Forward, Law Brings Up the Rear

Lawyers have had, at least preceding the memory of any living human being, an obligation to preserve the confidences of their clients. Some variation of Rule 1.6 of the ABA’s Model Code of Professional Responsibility is in effect in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Specifically, Rule 1.6 (c) states:

(c) A lawyer shall make reasonable efforts to prevent the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, or unauthorized access to, information relating to the representation of a client.

Back in the pre-digital age, if the lawyer did not talk too much at cocktail parties where alcohol was served and locked his office when he left for the day he was covered. If the document was really, really sensitive, you put it in a safe. That was reasonable security when information was limited by a physical presence.

Time and technology have changed. While most lawyers are not early adapters of technology, most lawyers now use the internet, email and have some way to work remotely. How has the law kept up?

Most states and the District of Columbia have issued comments to expand on the rule. Comment 18 imposes an obligation that the lawyer be competent in preserving the confidentiality. Specifically the Comment provides:

Acting Competently to Preserve Confidentiality

[18] Paragraph (c) requires a lawyer to act competently to safeguard information relating to the representation of a client against unauthorized access by third parties and against inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure by the lawyer or other persons who are participating in the representation of the client or who are subject to the lawyer’s supervision. See Rules 1.1, 5.1 and 5.3. The unauthorized access to, or the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of, information relating to the representation of a client does not constitute a violation of paragraph (c) if the lawyer has made reasonable efforts to prevent the access or disclosure. Factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of the lawyer’s efforts include, but are not limited to, the sensitivity of the information, the likelihood of disclosure if additional safeguards are not employed, the cost of employing additional safeguards, the difficulty of implementing the safeguards, and the extent to which the safeguards adversely affect the lawyer’s ability to represent clients (e.g., by making a device or important piece of software excessively difficult to use).

So what should a reasonably competent lawyer in the Digital age do?

A starting point might be to understand the basics in how the digital technology they are employing works so they can employ the digitally analogous solutions they employed in a paper environment.

Your client’s information is now stored electronically on a computer and when you transmit the information you send it by email. What are you doing to reasonably and competently to protect your clients secrets from inadvertent disclosure in the digital age?

You must know where your data is, how it is stored and whether it is secure. If it is in your office, do others have access to it? Do you leave your computers on? Can the cleaning crew access it? If it is stored in the cloud, where is your cloud? Is it in the US subject to US law or some foreign jurisdiction?

The real issue is the security of the solution, not whether it is in the lawyer’s office or in a private cloud. An installed locked down office environment can be secure, but it will not allow the benefits of remote access. A cloud solution can be secure but it requires reasonable inquiry to determine if it is so. A highly encrypted private cloud solution, backed up instantaneously where the data does not leave the US is the way to go.

An email is essentially sending a letter with your client’s secrets in it without an envelope. Encryption is the envelope that hides the content of the email from others. Low level encryption is using a see through envelope. High level encryption is using an opaque envelope. Which would a reasonable competent attorney use?