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When Atlanta-based Thomas, Kayden, Horstemeyer & Risley was preparing to open its Huntsville, Ala., office last spring, partners searched for ways to keep the new location in the loop — without having to trek back and forth several times a month. They turned to videoconferencing. Partner Jeffrey R. Kuester, who supervised the setup process, talks about what it was like: Q: There are so many different kinds of videoconferencing equipment. How did the firm decide what to purchase? A: We have a partner meeting with 10 or so people in Atlanta and two in Alabama. We also have training meetings with 30 or so in the room in Atlanta. We wanted to be able to see different people when they were talking. We have the ability to automatically find the person who was talking and zoom in — and when I saw that, I thought we really need something like that. Most of our training meetings are not talking head-type training meetings. You need to be able to see all the different folks. The screen display is split — like picture-in-a-picture — and we can also see what they are seeing. Q: How difficult was it to get set up? A: It really was tough to lasso everyone together. We had to make sure we had the data guy there, the telephone guy, me and the administrator — trying to coordinate four people to see a demonstration to see what we needed. [Then] who are you going to buy lines and things from? Q: What were the biggest complications? A: We had multiple providers. I can almost add up how many people [we had working on this.] Am I getting a good rate? Do I have to shop contracts around? … There were so many players. That was probably the biggest surprise to me. Q: What did it cost? A: $40,000 to $50,000. Q: What’s the ongoing monthly cost of the system? A: About $1,000 per month [per office], plus the long-distance [based] on per-minute use. Q: What about the savings? A: [The Huntsville attorneys] are not having to come over here for every meeting. There are two partner meetings and three training meetings a month. They wouldn’t come over for [the training meetings.] So it’s not so much the savings, as trying to maintain a close-knit firm atmosphere. Q: What was the alternative — if you hadn’t had videoconferencing? A: Conference calls. But they would have been coming over here more often. Q: How’s the quality? A: It’s great — it’s just like you’re there, just like TV. Dana Dratch is a free-lance writer based in Atlanta.

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