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Companies seeking to retain the services of a law firm are not just looking for prestigious law degrees or law libraries filled with leather-bound books anymore. These days, prospective clients often measure a firm’s technological abilities when choosing which legal counsel to retain. Although the legal industry historically hasn’t been quick to adopt new technologies and communications tools, it is quickly catching up in this era of e-mail and the Web. Attorneys are becoming accustomed to integrating technology into their daily routines and have come to appreciate the benefits of using technologies that allow them to work more efficiently and save valuable time. Partners, increasingly concerned with the bottom line, appreciate the money saved by incorporating new solutions into their business and are beginning to view technology as an essential tool to help them stay competitive. Attorneys have already started embracing the use of teleconferencing to communicate both internally and externally. For example, attorneys and legal administrators use conference calls internally to gather trial teams, conduct meetings that incorporate multiple locations around the world, and interview prospective consultants without incurring costly travel expenses and lost time. Externally, attorneys use conferencing to communicate more easily with clients, attorneys working the other side of a transaction, expert witnesses, local counsel, and others integral to a case or a deal. When a matter takes an unexpected turn, it is important to have the resources available to communicate with all parties quickly and effectively. Teleconferencing allows attorneys to exchange critical information directly with clients, witnesses, judges, and others at any time, day or night. Many legal administrators have implementing around-the-clock access to teleconferencing services for their firms, allowing their lawyers to stay abreast of developments and to be prepared for last-minute crises. Some conferencing providers offer on-demand services, including a dedicated dial-in telephone number that is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This service acts as a virtual conference room that’s always available for use. On-demand service enables the user to focus on the issues at hand, rather than worrying about the logistics of making a reservation, contacting participants, etc. Consider a trial lawyer confronted with an unforeseen development such as a new piece of evidence or an important eyewitness coming forward, or a transactional lawyer learning about a new wrinkle in a proposed merger. An audio conferencing provider can help set up a virtual conference room, as well as coordinate the meeting. Some providers can even send out invitations, alerting key audiences to the time and reason for the call. By outsourcing to the conference call provider the critical but time-consuming logistical details of setting up the call, the team can spend valuable time preparing for the meeting. Even if a firm isn’t dealing with a crisis, conference calls — more specifically, operator-assisted calls — can be used for many different communications needs. Dial-out calls, where the operator calls to gather all the participants on the line for the meeting, add a professional touch to a firm’s meeting. An operator is available during the call to answer questions and provide whatever assistance is needed. The operator also can announce when participants arrive or disconnect and can even remove any background noise or cellular phone interference. Some conferencing providers offer moderator billing features that enable firms to bill back the time spent on conference calls to their clients. This feature makes it easier for firms to bill their clients by tracking conference calls through client-specific reference codes, and helps legal administrators to process invoices more efficiently each month. Also, firms are able to send clients itemized bills that include conference call connection times. WEB-ENHANCED CONFERENCING Conferencing technologies are no longer restricted to the telephone. As more and more people adopt the Internet as their preferred mode of communications, Web-enhanced conferencing is being rapidly accepted by the legal profession. Web-enabled conferencing technology combines the audio, data, and visual capabilities of the Internet to conduct real-time, interactive broadcasts, and collaborative presentations. The presenter creates a presentation in an electronic format such as Microsoft’s PowerPoint and sets up the meeting on a conferencing provider’s system. A Web link and dial-in phone number are then provided to the participants. When the group is assembled, the presenter speaks by phone while either the presenter or an assistant manages the presentation (i.e., changes slides). This format works well for in-house training of lawyers and legal assistants and for making presentations to potential clients. Some Web conferencing providers also offer the ability to share data collaboratively so that more than one person can work on a document at the same time. This is particularly beneficial for attorneys who may be working with colleagues in multiple locations, allowing for better coordination and collaboration on projects, both with clients and within the firm. Some communications providers offer additional options such as the following: Slide shows over the Internet in formats such as Microsoft PowerPoint. Pre-presentation consulting services to help a presenter rehearse the presentation and learn how to maximize the results of the audioconference and Web conferencing meeting format. Web tours, in which the presenter can control the participants’ browsers. White-board features for presenters to write, draw, and highlight content on the Internet slides during the presentation. Playback features, for participants who may have missed the meeting, with access to both the audio and visual presentation in synchronized format from an Internet site. Instead of spending valuable time and money to travel for traditional in-person meetings, law firms can use the audio and visual capabilities of the Internet to conduct virtual business meetings. Firms can save significant amounts of billable time and travel expenses by spending one or two hours on the phone, rather than one or two days at an off-site meeting. SECURITY Conference calls clearly offer a convenient and cost-effective way to conduct business. Yet because sensitive information is often discussed on these calls, it is critical to take steps to ensure that communications are secure. If the information shared on a call were to fall into the wrong hands, a matter could be jeopardized and the firm’s reputation undermined. Conferencing providers usually offer safeguard features in order to minimize the accidental loss or intentional misuse of confidential information. Some safeguard features are as follows: � Pass-code entry, ensuring that only the participants invited are allowed access to the call. � Entry and exit tones to notify others on the call when a participant joins or leaves. � Roll calls that let you know who is on the conference. � “Lock and unlock” features to prevent anyone from joining after you begin the meeting. � “Mute all” feature to ensure that your speaker has the floor uninterrupted. � “Disconnect” feature, which gives the ability to clear all participant lines once the conference is completed. Whether you are meeting with clients or conducting internal meetings, it is essential to understand the security of the technology you are using and to take reasonable steps to ensure that sensitive information remains privileged. The old adage “time is money” holds true for the legal industry more so than for many other professions, and these time-saving and cost-cutting solutions are not lost on today’s law firms. The valuable benefits that teleconferencing offers include convenience, cost-effectiveness, less travel, and less coordination, resulting in more billable time and an easy exchange of internal and external information. Conferencing technology has become an essential tool for firms by enhancing interactions with clients, extending the reach of lawyers to colleagues both inside and outside the firm, and positively impacting the bottom line. Law firms have rapidly embraced a variety of conferencing services that combine the Internet, software, and telecommunications. Whether the purpose is to discuss a last-minute development or organize a settlement meeting, conferencing technologies offer the ability to reach key audiences quickly and effectively, and enhance the ability of firms and individuals to coordinate, collaborate, and share critical information. Richard Brashier is vice president of North American sales at Premiere Conferencing www.premconf.com, a business unit of Ptek Holdings Inc., and a leading provider of conference call and group communications services.

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