Originally posted on The National Law Journal on June 20, 2012
There is no replacement for face-to-face interaction, but for international firms with money to burn, Cisco Systems Inc. has created something that comes close with its telepresence software. A number of large law firms now have this technology installed in their offices. According to multiple sources, this telepresence seems incredibly real—it’s as though you are in the same room. This can save firms tens of thousands of dollars on yearly travel costs. This incredible technology, however, is also very expensive. What if there were a more inexpensive option that any firm or company could use?
There is, and—get this—it’s free. It is called Skype.
Why aren’t firms already using this great tool? Could it be that in their search for more expensive proprietary technology, they are overlooking obvious tools? Skype is simple to use, free to download and the only real expense is the purchase of a $10 Webcam that can snap on a computer screen. Working from a home office, I have been using Skype for years and, while it doesn’t have a great user interface, it is a very simple tool for video calls. So why aren’t firms jumping on the Skype bandwagon?
- Video calls require new software, and the IT department doesn’t like that. While it is true that installing new software on a network is always problematic, this tool doesn’t need information from other platforms and is simple. Keep in mind, it is also free. Some help from IT isn’t a lot to ask for a ready-to-use tool that takes five minutes to learn. And did I mention that the software is free?
- It’s unfamiliar. This is probably the hardest doubt to overcome, but lawyers make money when they are at their desks, not driving from appointment to appointment. If more phone calls were video calls, it would cut down on the need for face-to-face meetings. This would be a huge efficiency gain to the firm. Should video completely replace in-person visits? Absolutely not, but video calls would immediately improve the quality of our interactions internally as well as externally.
- Our computers don’t have Webcams yet. If your firm has more than 5,000 lawyers, like DLA Piper or Baker & McKenzie, the cost of $10 Webcams is not insignificant, but for smaller firms, it is really a no-brainer. If you can spend $10 to increase the quality of interactions for a single lawyer with his or her clients and prospects, you recover the cost of the Webcams almost instantly.
Remember watching the old cartoon The Jetsons, in which the family of the future made video calls and sped around in flying cars? We have that technology now (for the video calls at least). The 10-year-old version of you would be ashamed if he or she knew that you had such great technology yet failed to use it.
Adrian Dayton is a lawyer, speaker on social media for the legal profession, and author of Social Media for Lawyers: Twitter Edition (ARK 2012, 2d Edition) and LinkedIn & Blogs for Lawyers (West 2012, co-authored by Amy Knapp). You can learn more at https://adriandayton.wpengine.com or have a video call with Adrian on Skype; his username is adriandayton.
I’ve often wondered why this tech isn’t more widely used, especially now that I’m traveling for depositions. My best guess is that clients were burned in the past when the technology was still developing. One bad/costly experience with something new is a great motivator to play it safe with the status quo.
I’m making more video calls, but not as many as I should be.
I think it requires planning (“What’s your skype name? Make sure you are on-line?) and it’s unfamiliar. But there are some real advantages.
1. They are easily recorded. I sometimes record my skype calls and show snipets to my team later to get them up to speed.
2. The communication is pretty great, you have to use a headset, but I do that for my regular phone too.
3. You can share screens and collaborate on a spreadsheet, document or look at a website together.
I’m glad you asked the question…