Friday, May 21, 2010

Emerging Technologies within Traditional Systems: Video Conferences

Wade Coye, Lawyer
It is so easy to communicate in today's world. People can speak to each other whether they are on the next street or on the next continent through phone calls, emails, instant messaging, video chatting, etc. These technologies allow people to stay connected and feel like they are having a face-to-face, personal conversation.

Legal professionals around the world are beginning to adopt videoconferencing as an alternative to traditional meetings. Depositions, mediations, and other litigation matters can be conducted through video conferences. There are a lot of benefits to conducting a conversation online rather than in person or by phone, but there are a lot of downsides as well. Either way, this new means of communication is having a big effect on how certain cases are being resolved and its significance needs to be considered.

Video Conferences in General

At the Coye Law Firm, we participate in videoconferencing mainly for Social Security disability and workers' compensation cases. Many clients pursuing these types of claim are injured or disabled and unable to leave their homes. Video conferences provide a face-to-face interaction between the client and legal professionals without the need for strenuous transportation. Video conferences can be set up at any time and virtually anywhere, so meeting times are more flexible. Because those involved in the chat may never need to leave their homes or offices, videoconferencing also saves time and money.

Case by Case Conferences

Florida is a big state and has many courts to reflect it's size. If a client appeals a workers' compensation claim, their case isn't handled by a local court, but by the First District Court of Appeals, which is located in Tallahassee. Workers' comp clients in the Keys would have to travel 10 hours to appear at a live hearing in Tallahassee. The workers' compensation system has adopted video conferencing as a courtesy to clients who prefer not to travel to the state capital. Clients and attorneys can choose to appear at a live hearing if they want to, but our firm has yet to see anyone take this option. These cases can require many short meetings, so clients and attorneys both recognize the benefit of appearing virtually rather than in person.

Social Security disability hearings are designed to show the claimant's impairment or pain to a judge. Claimants are also expected to testify on their vocational, educational, and workplace history as it relates to their disability. After their disability is assessed, the judge then grants them monetary benefits to make up for their limited ability to work. Video conferences let clients with limited mobility appear at their hearings, but a judge may not be able to assess their character or veracity as well. Because this essential element of the SSD process is impeded by a video conference, the client and/or their lawyer may request a live hearing instead. The Coye Law Firm is making efforts to test video technology and conduct conferences in SSD claims from regional offices. Instead of having to travel across the state or country, judges can meet online with our attorneys and clients at a regional SSD office.

Drawbacks to Video Conferences

Cost is an important consideration in any part of the legal process. It costs money to hire court reporters, rent conference rooms, purchase equipment, and ensure that all of the necessary professionals are able to participate. If the benefits outweigh the costs, then an attorney may schedule a video conference during a case's resolution if it isn't already required. As more offices and systems switch to paperless or efficient communication methods, video conferences are becoming a more prevalent means of resolving a legal claim.

Is cost the only thing that keeps legal professionals from embracing this new technology? Not quite. Credibility is an essential part of any case. Visual cues and body language are instrumental in communicating effectively, while appearance and facial reactions can help to bolster a client's credibility. Unlike telephone calls, video conferences let legal professionals see the client's reactions. However, the technology hasn't accounted for normal conversation cues such as eye contact. Many people become nervous when they are on camera or being recorded, so communication can be stifled this way also. Soft-spoken clients may have trouble voicing their concerns through video. If additional evidence needs to be submitted, it can take extra time to fax documents or send files, although all evidence should be submitted before a hearing. These difficulties have been noted in practice rather than anticipated before a video conference.

Daily Applications of Video Conferencing

Despite all of the benefits and drawbacks, the Coye Law Firm has integrated video conferencing into our daily routine. One of our attorneys, Dan Smith, communicates on a regular basis with a client who lives in Japan via Skype. Our firm set up a deposition for this client using the same program, which saved him an expensive and exhausting trip. You can contact our office via Skype by calling username CoyeLawFirm. Our regional offices benefit from video conferencing programs such as iChat and Jabber because our attorneys can share documents instantly and meet clients when they otherwise wouldn't be able to.

Client reactions are emerging slower than the technology; some believe that their day in court is less personal or ineffective if they only appear in front of a judge on a television screen. Obviously it will take time for everyone to adjust to the changing means of communication during a case. Since the beginning, our firm has taken advantage of how the latest technology increases communication efficiency. As the legal system adapts, so does our practice. The attorneys of the Coye Law Firm want to help clients resolve and understand their specific case. Visit our website to learn about our firm's experience, qualifications, and ways we can help you.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Building the New Orlando Location

In July 2009, the Coye Law Firm temporarily relocated College park offices. Our home had been at 730 Vassar Street, but the firm's growth became too much for the small building to handle. Crews demolished the old building in November 2009 and have since been working diligently on constructing a modern space for our legal team.

As construction comes to a close, we would like to share with you some milestones in the building's construction. Follow our updates on Twitter (@theCoyeLawFirm) and view many more photos on our Facebook page.

Last week crews installed the air conditioning system to cool the three floors of open office space.