With most of us working from home because of the Covid 19 Pandemic, it’s important to take the proper steps to figure out how you are going to connect with family, friends, colleagues, and clients. Before you jump on the video chat bandwagon, take the time to find out which one is going to work best for you. Here are the six best video conference tools for family law professionals.
By Burton Kelso, Technology Expert
Family law professionals across the nation are working from home during self-isolation or quarantine; to stay in contact with clients and coworkers during this challenging time, more and more professionals are turning to video conferencing software. With this wonderful piece of technology, you can easily check in with your colleagues and staff – holding regular meetings to keep everyone up-to-date and connected. You can have a daily chat room where people can drop in if they’re feeling isolated – or host a virtual happy hour to boost morale.
And, perhaps most importantly, you can consult with clients or potential clients – many of whom are upset, stressed out, or even terrified by having to face divorce and a pandemic at the same time. Seeing your face and hearing your voice can go a long way to reassuring them that they still have you on their side, and that you can obtain emergency orders if necessary to protect them and/or their children at this challenging time.
Before your firm decides to jump on the video conference bandwagon and start using one of the popular platforms (like Zoom or Google Hangouts Meet), there are some things you need to take into consideration: for instance, whether your video chats need to be confidential, what you need to have in place, and even what will be showing behind you during a video chat. And if you have young children or pets, you also need to have a strategy for keeping them out of your home office while you’re on a video conference – and another strategy for when that first strategy fails.
The following three questions will give you a better idea of what direction you need to go when it comes to using video conferencing for your family law firm or other divorce-related practice.
Q1. How fast are you surfing the web?
Before you even begin to think about streaming video, you need to get a good idea of how fast your internet is at home with your land-based Internet and your cellular provider. Get in contact with your Internet provider to find out what your plan is and if you’re getting unlimited Internet, especially if you’re wanting to stream video from your smartphone. Why? Video uses a LOT of data and if you’re on a limited plan, you can burn through your data quickly. Once you confirm you’re not on a limited data plan, visit Ookla’s Speedtest or download the app to your smart device. This service allows you to check out your current Internet speed so you can compare it to what Internet speed plan you are paying for and if your speeds are consistent. Fast, reliable Internet is important. When you run the test, the most important number is your download speed, which should be at least 20 Mbps (Megabits Per Second) or higher. The faster the download speed, the faster you can stream video on your computer or phone. You can also use it to troubleshoot if you’re having connectivity issues with your Internet provider.
Q2. Do you mind if people listen to your video conversations?
Depending on what type of information you plan to share during your video call, you want to be selective about which service you use. If you want your video chats secured, make sure the service you’re using has end to end encryption. Simply put, end-to-end encryption allows your chat to be secure and private. Now, all video chat programs use encryption to keep the conversation secret, but with end-to-end encryption, you add another level of security to your videos. Without it, there a possibility your conversations can get into the hands of people who want to steal your personal or business data. Note that video conferencing apps using end-to-end encryption will use more of your Internet data.
Q3. Have you thought about Universal appeal?
When considering video conferencing software, you want to consider software available on every platform. For example, Apple’s Facetime is one of the oldest video chat apps around. It’s easy to use and it offers end-to-end encryption. It’s perfect for secure connections with customers and family members who have iPhones – but sorry Apple users, we still live in a Windows world and not everyone has an iPhone.
6 Best Video Conference Tools to Communicate with Your Colleagues & Clients
So, what are the best video conferencing choices for family lawyers and other professionals working in the family law and divorce arena? Here are six safe bets.
You can’t talk about video conferencing software without talking about Zoom. It’s easy to use and it’s available for every tech device on the market. For most users, the features offered in a free account are more than enough for video calls and webinars from 2 to 100 or more connections. One of my favorite features includes the ability to share your screen during video calls and the fact you can record video from your calls. End to end encryption is automatically enabled in Zoom chat, but you need to enable end to end encryption for video by going logging in to your Zoom account then going to “Meeting Settings,” then navigate to “end-to-end encryption” and slide the switch from off to on.
[Ed. Be aware that Zoom is working on some very serious privacy and security breaches right now, so you might want to consider using one of the video conferencing tools (below) for your more sensitive video calls until Zoom can reassure us that they have resolved these issues.]
2. Google Hangouts Meet and Google Hangouts.
If you have a Gmail account, you have free access to Google Hangouts. This popular video chat app allows you can share documents, links to websites, your screen, and images. Similar to the video calls in the free, consumer version of Hangouts, Google Hangouts Meet is Google’s enterprise video conferencing software. Like Zoom, you can join from any tech device and you can talk to up to 250 participants (and 100,000 live stream viewers) if you have a paid GSuite account. G Suite’s Enterprise edition also creates a dial-in phone number for each meeting, so you can use your phone to join the meeting if you’re on the road without wifi or data. Although Google Hangouts Meet video is encrypted in transit between your device and Google’s servers, it does not have end-to-end encryption.
3. Skype and Microsoft Teams (formerly Skype for Business).
Skype has been around forever, but depending on which version you have, you may be limited regarding what you can do. If you have the free version of Skype, you can video conference from any device and talk with up to 50 people. If you are paying for a Microsoft Office 365 account, you can use Microsoft’s professional online meeting solution, Microsoft Teams, which has replaced Skype for Business Online. Microsoft Teams allows you to talk up to 250 people via instant messaging, video conferencing, calling; and share your screen and files. With Teams, you can connect to a meeting using a landline or mobile phone without access to the software. In case you were wondering, both Skype and Teams have end-to-end encryption.
This is a great video conferencing solution when you need to work with several co-workers and can support up to 150 people. It works with both Windows and Mac computers and most smartphones. GoToMeeting is powerful enough that you can create personal meeting rooms allowing more than one meeting can take place. It’s the only program that allows you to share your mouse and keyboard with the people you are conferenced in with.
5. Cisco Webex.
Like GoToMeeting, Webex lets you create multiple conferencing rooms, share your screen and send files back and forth. You are able to host up to 200 people, save the video of your presentation and you have end-to-end encryption for your sessions.
WhatsApp is probably the most used chatting app on the planet and it has a video chat feature as well. Video calls only work through the iPhone and Android app (so no video calls from a desktop computer). It also has end-to-end encryption which will keep those calls secure. It isn’t a robust as many of the business video chat platforms, but it is good enough to chat with friends and family or a small group of up to four people.
With most of us working from home, it’s important you take the proper steps to figure out how you are going to connect with family, friends, colleagues, and clients. Before you jump on the video chat bandwagon, take the time to find out which one is going to work best for you.
Burton Kelso is the Chief Technology Expert and Founder of Integral, a technology company offering service, consulting and problem-solving for clients. He has worked with hundreds of customers across many different industries, and he takes pride in finding solutions tailored to each one’s individual needs. www.callintegralnow.com
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