COVID has Placed Law Practice into a New Environment


COVID has Placed Law Practice into a New Environment

Meeting in person with someone has given lawyers pause and taken on potentially dire implications. Running a law office, always problematic, is particularly challenged. Fortunately there are technological tools that can assist in keeping the law firm ship afloat and managing the troublesome seas.

What are the implications of COVID on functions that still need to be done with staff and lawyers all working remotely to keep the legal machinery running?

Commissioning affidavits and witnessing executions remotely, client ID and verification remotely, using video conferencing to provide legal advice or access client capacity, using electronic signatures, making electronic bank deposits and withdrawals, using electronic signatures on legal invoices — all these and many more have been impacted.

The Law Society has issued Q&A’s in the areas of practice management and trust accounting to address many of these issues at:

Video conferencing software has come into its own at this time. There are two particular flavours that lawyers and the courts have chosen. One is Microsoft Teams and the other is Zoom. What are the considerations that would have you choose one over the other?

The two are similar but not identical. MS Teams is chat integrated into Office 365 that incorporates calls with Skype and facilitates team chats and individual chats. Zoom unifies cloud video conferencing, simple online meetings, and cross platform group chat into one platform.

One major reason to choose MS Teams is its deep integration into MS Office 365. The Freemium version provides you with group calling for up to 60 minutes and 100 participants. With MS Teams Business Basics for $6.40/user/month CDN you get web and mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Sharepoint, Outlook, and OneDrive with Teams providing you with group calling for up to 30 hours and 300 participants, team transcripts, 1 TB of storage, and standard security. If you already subscribe to MS Office 365, then MS Teams is an easy choice.

Zoom’s strength is ease of use. Zoom has multiple versions, starting with Free, which allows up to 100 participants, unlimited group meetings for up to 40 minutes, unlimited one-to-one meetings with a 30-hour time limit per meeting and private and group chat. The Pro version allows meetings up to 100 participants (up to 1,000 with Large Meetings add-on), group meetings for up to 30 hours, social media streaming, and 1 GB cloud recording (per license).

What are the drawbacks of each?

MS Teams is “hyper compartmentalized” according to PCMag and you may have to dive deep to find a conversation. The free versions of each offer different conference time: Zoom is limited to 40 minutes vs Team’s 60 minutes. Once you start paying, you get 30 hours on Zoom vs 24 on Teams.

A drawback is how difficult it is to get someone who isn’t using Teams into a call compared to Zoom meetings. To join a Teams call from your phone you have to install the Teams app. To join a live event, you must download a streaming player such as Azure Media Player, Yammer, or Teams. Not so for Zoom. 

MS Teams will only display nine people on a call; Zoom — as many as your screen will fit.

If you want ease of use, go to Zoom. If you want advanced features, including MS Office integration, go to MS Teams.

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