How lawyers can use Skype to be more productive

By Geri L. Dreiling, Esq.

Skype videoconfereces logo

For many teens, “Skyping” — videoconferencing with friends through the use of Skype’s free service — is a daily ritual. Grandparents have also discovered the merits of Skype as a way to bond with grandchildren who live at a distance. Parents on business trips use Skype to say good night to their kids.

But what about lawyers? Is Skype more than just a cool tool for personal use?

That was the question Lawyer Tech Review recently posed to a few solo and small firm lawyers. The answer: A resounding yes.

Some of the examples given by the lawyers surveyed included using Skype to facilitate a family law mediation. The wife was present in the lawyer’s office. The husband, who was in Baghdad at the time, used his laptop’s Web camera to participate by way of Skype. Skype has also been used to help an out-of-state expert testify in a juvenile case, and some family law courts are incorporating Skype into the parenting plans as a way to help parents stay connected with their children.

At Lawyer Tech Review, we routinely use Skype for videoconferencing. It allows us to travel across town or fly over an ocean without leaving the office or spending a fortune on international calls. Using the screen-sharing features, we’ve revised documents and ironed out technical kinks in a computer or software program.

To use Skype for videoconferencing, you’ll need a webcam. Many computers and laptops now come with built-in webcams and microphone. Even if you don’t have one built in, though, many options are available. At Lawyer Tech Review, we use a Logitech webcam with auto face tracking that includes a microphone and simply plugs into a laptop through a USB connection. (Affiliate link)

For those thinking of giving Skype a try, here are some of the pros and cons of the service.

Easy Way for You and Your Client to Control Expenses

The Skype software is easy to download to your computer. It’s just a matter of allowing it to run and following the prompts. It operates in Windows, Mac and Linux environments. It can be added to a mobile phone and even to Internet televisions.

At a Glance: Skype Videoconferencing

  • Skype is easy to download, install and use.
  • Free videoconferencing can cut down on travel expenses and expedite the resolution of cases.
  • With screen sharing, tech-savvy clients can avoid a trip to the office.
  • Problems related to Internet connection speed can cause the video to freeze or the audio to be garbled, but these problems don’t persist with the average Internet connection.

Skype offers a combination of free and subscription-based services. The free services include Skype-to-Skype calls, one-to-one video calls, instant messaging and screen sharing.

The free service isn’t good for just lawyers — it can also help clients on limited budgets, such as parties in a divorce case or a dispute over a small estate, for whom litigation expenses can be overwhelming.

Skype’s screen-sharing feature is also a productivity booster. For tech-savvy clients with tight schedules, reviewing a legal document and making revisions while working together online may be preferable to scheduling an appointment and hassling over parking. Skype allows the user to choose to select a window to share or share the entire screen.

Skype also offers more advanced paid subscription features, such as calling mobile phones domestically or abroad and videoconferencing for three or more people.

Drawbacks to Skype

Although Skype is mostly reliable, the Internet connection are sometimes problematic. Video screens sometimes freeze, and the audio may be garbled. When these problems occur, however, they generally aren’t severe enough to warrant ending the call; instead, they’re usually more of an annoyance. Sometimes the problem corrects itself.

However, in December Skype went down, affecting millions of users for about a day. Skype reported the outage on its blog at the time, explaining that it was related to the way in which Skype is networked as a system, and brought the system back online.

Are there other uses for Skype in a law firm? If you’ve put Skype to work on a case or for administrative matters, let us know.

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