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After Sept. 11, 2001, with airports congested and difficult due to increased security, many legal professionals are exploring alternatives to traditional “fly-to” meetings. Should you use online meetings? And if you do, what should you look for when evaluating vendors? Here’s a checklist: 1. Purpose: What is the purpose of the meeting, and the expectations of participants? Can online meetings expedite your goals, or is “face time” necessary to achieve your ambitions? 2. Delicate negotiations? Are emotions likely to run high? Some sessions — such as tenuous contract negotiations, depositions, mediation and arbitration hearings — may require in-person meetings. Online meetings are best used in situations that do not depend upon precise interpretation of emotion or matters of the heart. They can be efficient and helpful when their main purpose is emotion-free — for example, for document, patent or contract reviews, a deposition of a scientific expert, or a negotiating session to hammer out a lease agreement. 3. Body language: Social cues are an instrumental part of any meeting. They include body language, facial expressions, silences and a sense of context of what is explicitly said. Will you need to decipher cues during the meeting? 4. Cost: It can be prohibitively expensive to fly in expert witnesses. Online meetings can speed up the process, cut costs and enable participation by people who otherwise might be too expensive, over-scheduled or otherwise burdened. 5. Technology: The sophistication of your software and equipment can be a factor. If the technology has been engineered specifically to meet the needs of legal professionals, it will be more useful and adaptable for your meeting. Less sophisticated tools can be annoying and irritating to participants. Look for annotation tools, whiteboards, document editing capabilities and other enhancements that will help you present and manage your exhibits and documents. 6. Privilege: When choosing meeting software, be aware of security features to protect proprietary transactions and negotiations and maintain attorney-client privilege. Security should be designed into the software from the ground up, rather than offered as add-on, option or extra charge. Ronald I. Koenig is president and CEO of Tempe, Ariz.-based Viack Corp., which provides online meeting software for the legal industry. E-mail: [email protected]. Web: www.viack.com

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