At the end of last month, various legal media began buzzing about a new legal technology start-up on the block: LawZam! The company (which doesn’t really have an exclamation point, but I can’t say the name without yelling like Champ from Anchorman) offers free video conferencing services for prospective clients looking for representation; more specifically, it purports to be something akin to “speed-dating for attorneys.”
An new editorial published today touts the benefits of services like this, and shopping “online in the lawyer district” more generally.
Now, I have to say, I’m a little cynical here. And I’m afraid even touching this subject will inspire Brian Tannebaum to fly across the country, come to my house, and stab me in the eye with a letter opener. But let’s look a little closer and get your opinions in a reader poll….
Here are the guts of Christy Burke’s column, which appeared on Legal IT Professionals:
As virtualization continually becomes more commonplace and less scary, it’s more common than ever for people to interact online and forego the in-person element, either at first, or altogether. Giving clients the ability to interface with lawyers online is not taking a short-cut or being avoidant or antisocial – it is actually providing what today’s clients actually want from lawyers: convenience, quality legal advice and efficiency.
Lawyer Susan Cartier Liebel, who is founder and CEO of Solo Practice University, explains, “Clients today don’t necessarily have time or inclination to get in the car to drive to a lawyer’s office if there is a more efficient way to consult with a lawyer or sign off on documents. Therefore, the best strategy for lawyers is to leverage technology to service clients remotely as well as in person – not only as an add-on, but as a foundational part of their law practice.”
Now, perhaps this is the case, at some level. But judging by our Best Law Firm Offices in America contest, many firms still feel very strongly about creating an impressive physical office space.
I might be hesitant to speak with an unfamiliar attorney about deeply personal matters over web video, but I suppose some people might care less about that, particularly for more straightforward matters and if time is in short supply.
I would also be concerned about privacy: during a conference you could not be sure what might be happening in the room, but off-camera. Plus, in my experience with services such as Skype, video chatting is fraught with connectivity problems. Regardless of the speed of a service like LawZam, quality relies on individual users’ at-home internet. And this, as anyone who has switched back and forth between Comcast and AT&T — and now despises them both — is not always reliable.
There’s nothing wrong with video conferencing generally. For many remote employees (aka me), it can be an important tool to keep in touch with far-flung co-workers. And anything that makes work easier and more efficient is probably a plus:
Cartier Liebel suggests that in order to establish and develop the attorney/client relationship, lawyers need to make the process as easy as possible for clients, being present online where they are, developing client portals for sharing documents and permitting digital signing. Some law firms provide their clients with iPads to make sure their clients can work with them.
Hooray for simplicity, because lord knows the legal industry could use more of that (most professions could, for that matter). Lawyer speed-dating, though? I’m not entirely convinced. At least it’s not lawyer ChatRoulette! Anyone who’s used it — please share your stories in the comments. And please take our reader poll:
Would you use video conferencing to consult with prospective new clients?
- Sure! It's the way of the future. (66%, 77 Votes)
- Are you freakin' kidding? No way, bro. Brick and mortar 4ever. (34%, 40 Votes)
Total Voters: 117
Why Not Shop Online in the Lawyer District? [Legal IT Professionals]