The first in a four-part series on online meetings – the tech, the etiquette, the challenges
The sudden requirement to use online meeting software was originally met with panic buying. Firms rushed just to get up and running, but now, six months into the pandemic, firms are reconsidering those initial decisions. So, is that software service good for the future?
There is a plethora of meeting applications out there and the number of solutions continues to grow. From consumer products such as Apple Facetime or Facebook Messenger to enterprise solutions such as Cisco Webex, firms have embraced all kinds of platforms to support their move to digital meetings. Even traditional phone system suppliers such as Gamma have entered the fray with their own online take.
It would be very difficult to list all of the solutions in use but it is fair to say Zoom and Microsoft Teams have become the most widely used and talked about. Zoom in particular had a huge surge in use due to the pandemic.
The top products in use are:
- Microsoft Teams
- GoToMeeting by LogMeIn
- Cisco WebEx
- Verizon BlueJeans
Other products include:
- Google Meet
- Dialpad UberConference
- me from LogMeIn
- Amazon Chime
The first thing to determine is what does your firm want from its meeting software? Here are a few primary use cases, you may have others:
|To meet with clients and counsel online||Whilst it is fairly straightforward to host a meeting where all parties enter the same ‘room’ for the meeting, consideration should be given to more complex situations. For example, firms that need to run Joint Settlement Meetings or mediations may need multiple ‘breakout’ rooms where participants can break off and have private conversations from the rest of the group. Products such as Teams can support this through the use of ‘Channels’ but not all products have this capability.|
|New business meetings||Consideration should be given to the joining process or time limits when using video conferencing software. There is nothing worse than being part way through a new client presentation and the meeting time limit being reached, which then promptly ejects everyone from the call!|
|Both video and conference (telephone) calls||The reason we have included the ability for telephone calls to be made is that it may not be viable for either your member of staff or the third-party contact to use either a microphone and speakers or a headset. This means that a telephone call needs to be made.|
|For meetings to be available wherever needed||It is entirely possible that your users are travelling or working from home and need to access a meeting or to create one.|
|For the IT department to support users online||
This requires the ability to take control of the user’s computer.
Please carefully note that if the PC to which the IT team is connecting is logged in as a standard user as opposed to Local Administrator, then a different solution will be required.
|For Human Resources team to work with staff members||Remote workers are now commonplace and it is important that human resources team can connect effectively with this group|
|Secure connections||Security continues to be a major concern for businesses and very much so for law firms. Therefore, any connection for either voice or video must be entirely secure (encrypted) from the user’s computer to the third-party participant’s and back (known as end-to-end encryption.|
The next thing to run is a system capability review to examine existing capabilities. This might expose software already in place and included in current licensing costs. Out of the products shown above, the one that is included as part of a wider licensing arrangement is Microsoft Teams so before you consider any other product, it would be wise to at least try Teams before looking at any other products.
We will use the use cases noted above to compare the products.
This table provides a comparison of whether the product provides the service or not.
|Client/Counsel||New Business||Video & Conference||International Call Access||IT Team Use||HR Team Use||Security|
|Microsoft Teams||Y||Y||Y||Y ¹||Y ²||Y||Y|
 This depends on the Microsoft 365 licence purchased. Microsoft 365 E5 is the only licence to include a phone system. Even then, the use of this system may cause a cost to be born over and above any included minutes that might be available.
 This has to be set to be available by a Microsoft 365 Administrator.
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