by Louis Hayner*

In the legal industry, it’s important for all personnel – be it an attorney, paralegal, court clerk, etc – to efficiently handle their demanding client base and manage the necessary functions required of their day-to-day business. Time constraints associated with tasks such as managing case files, subpoenas, and other matters, make it important to have the right technologies in place that will allow personnel to be accessible, anytime, anywhere.

A cloud-based Unified Communications (UC) solution can help streamline legal practices and business operations in firms of any size. The solution helps reduce costs and minimize delays to assure faster interaction with anyone important to the firm, even if they are not physically at the same location. This collaborative technology is a key investment for any organization striving to increase productivity and response time, as it improves office efficiencies and even enhances legal compliance in an organization.

Law firms can take advantage of the various features of UC, referred to as the Nine Cs

1.    Cloud-based.  Many lawyers have multiple offices in several locations, because it’s important for them to have a local presence in the communities they serve. A cloud-based product unifies satellite locations across one hosted UC platform, allowing these locations to act as effectively as if the firm were operating in just one location.

2.    Convergence.  A truly hosted UC environment is the convergence of your voice and data networks, taking your basic business based technology like your voice communications (IP phone) and combining that with office communications (instant messenger, video conferencing, desktop sharing, telepresence, etc.)

3.    Collaboration.  With UC, users can make a phone call or send an instant message and then overlay desktop sharing or video seamlessly. With SharePoint, lawyers can easily create collaborative workspace sites to share and manage information or to review a client contract or written deposition simultaneously with a colleague or client.

4.    Chat.  Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) allows users to find and communicate with the right person, right now, via the applications they use most (instant messaging, presence, audio-video conferencing and web conferencing). OCS provides users the ability to IM while on the phone. Rather than hanging up the phone mid-call to research an answer to a caller’s question or ask your assistant to pull a client’s file, you can send an instant message to a colleague via OCS without breaking the continuity of the phone call. This increases productivity and office efficiency tremendously and also vastly improves responsiveness to clients.

5.    Conferencing.  Web and video conferencing provide a virtual meeting experience that integrates data, content, applications, video, voice, media, and text to enable real-time communication and collaboration whenever you need it. When you need to be face to face, simply start a video conference with the click of your mouse. Lawyers can save on travel time and logistics by handling depositions via video. Some hosted UC solutions can potentially incorporate themselves with other video system equipment (Tandberg, for example) as long as it follows an open platform currently in existence.

6.    Connecting.  Presence enables real-time status of employees (based on calendar information, login/activity status, and user preference) to be displayed across the firm and/or selected colleagues to enable users to contact the right person the first time using the best communications method. By connecting to the main office through presence, you are able to see what other people around you are doing via a 365 view of your office. 

7.    (Tele)Commuting.  Many people figure out ways to work from home – lugging heavy paperwork and files home, sharing their home or cell phone numbers with coworkers and clients and calling into their voicemail to check it every hour. However, when working with cloud-based solutions all that thought and planning is no longer necessary. Hosted solutions allow lawyers to telecommute seamlessly from a home office, from the courthouse or from the road, thereby running his or her business as usual without incurring extra costs to the firm. Employees can access email and client information, view and edit documents, manage calendars, and collaborate with coworkers as if they were still in the office. Clients, other lawyers, judges, etc. will be unable to recognize that you are working from a remote location since inbound callers will not change their calling patterns. For example, if a client calls your office line, the call can be automatically routed to your home office or cell phone – making it appear that you are still in the office, available and ready to help. Outbound calls can be made on a cell or home phone but appear as though they are originating from your desk phone on caller ID.

8.    Continuity. In the event disruption, the business continuity aspect of the cloud ensures that lawyers can always maintain their billable hours via phone, video, and other communications methods.

9.    Cost Savings.  When buying a premise-based solutions there are many different cost components including installation, configuration, hardware, maintenance agreements, software upgrades, site visits, additional ports,  voice circuits, data circuits, carrier fees… the list is endless. It is estimated that a cloud-based solution cuts deployment time by 75 percent, management time by 90 percent and TCO by 25-30 percent over a premises-based solution. It also brings the costs of new systems from $2000 a user down to $250-$350 per user over a premises-based system. Hosted solutions can be deployed, managed, and monitored in less time, for less money.

* Louis Hayner has over 10 years of management and entrepreneurial sales experience in telecom services. He is currently the Executive Vice President & Chief Sales Officer at WVT Communications Group, where he is responsible for all sales and marketing for the company and its subsidiaries, Alteva and USA Datanet. Louis can be reached at l.hayner@wvtcg.com