Remote Work Changes Unified Communications For Lawyers

As the profession that is perhaps most reliant on collaboration and meetings among the entire ecosystem of knowledge workers, the legal field has been radically transformed by the move to remote work over the course of 2020. As firms with workers all over the world dealt with the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, the shape of unified communications for lawyers put heavy demands on IT and UC teams, especially those with a global footprint.

During a recent webinar with Vyopta, UC professionals from large firms talked about how they initially responded to the move out of the office, and what they expect the future of the office to look like for the legal field.

The remote work shift coincided with a recent merger for the Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath firm, which combined its existing headcount of two firms that previously had 3,000 employees, though that number was around 2,500 after the merger was completed in February.

Brian Sappio, multimedia services manager for the combined firm, said combining hardware systems including 60 Cisco video endpoints with more than 130 Polycom units was a challenge unto itself.

Sean McGrath, manager of AV client services for the Dechert LLP firm and its more than 2,000 employees, said his team had to manage a 10x increase in online meetings once remote work began. That increase came with a steep learning curve in unified communications for lawyers and lots of help desk tickets at the outset that decreased to near normal levels once workers became comfortable with the collaboration and meeting tools they were using.

“The biggest challenge was going from a centralized conference room model to a distributed, user remote model. Instead of 200 conferences, it’s now 2,000 individual rooms and connections that need to be made. That was by far the biggest challenge,” he said. “There was a lot of kicking and screaming up front. Early on in the pandemic we saw a high rise in calls and support, but then kind of dramatically dropped off. There was a lot really early on and then they kind of dissipated.”

Sappio said his firm has grown accustomed to closely monitoring usage of UC tools and capabilities throughout 2020, with weekly reports that track total minutes of meetings, usage patterns and quality of calls.

Having that data thanks to Vyopta lets his team know if more licensing or adjustments to the UC toolsets are needed, or if the firm needs to add headcount or take other steps to manage its online collaboration using familiar names like Webex and GoToMeeting. McGrath said Webex, Microsoft Teams and Zoom make up the bulk of the UC usage for Dechert.

Michael Matakonis, director of operations for the managed services company Perfect Wve Technologies, said the move to remote work has increased the variety of UC tools in use so that workers can use what they are most comfortable and familiar with. That means a growing footprint for Zoom, and a need to stay on top of usage in a multivendor environment with the help of Vyopta to manage unified communications for lawyers.

“Most of our customers are solid Cisco shops with WebEx being the Web conferencing and audio conferencing, but we certainly have seen a number of customers, legal and otherwise, that use Zoom. (Zoom) is out there, like it or not, from a corporate standpoint,” he said.

“There definitely is that pressure to have flexibility. And honestly, Vyopta is a great solution because a lot of times it’s a question of, ‘OK. So we’re using zoom, but how much Zoom are we using? What’s the quality information?’ And if you’re a Cisco shop you’re not going to get that information from the Webex hub or TMS or some of the other solutions.”

One question that law firms of all sizes are facing is how to manage their conference spaces in the new work environment post-Covid. Early on during the return to work, those spaces have had to be flexed as both a place for meetings and presentations, and quasi offices – called “hoteling” in industry parlance – for workers looking to stay socially distant.

The changing needs of legal workers using an important space in their offices will require firms to reconsider how to equip and allocate usage going forward. One option for doing so is using room sensors in video endpoint devices that can monitor how often and how many people are using a conference space.

McGrath said Dechert’s priority is to make those rooms easy to use for whatever purposes they are needed.

“We’re going to drive to simplicity as we move forward from a design perspective, trying to keep the rooms as simple as possible to try to kind of continue good habits that our users learn from working remotely, with the self-service mentality and being able to go into a conference room and start a meeting on their own instead of calling us up every five minutes just to press buttons for them,” he said. “We hope that that continues, and then if we continue to simplify it should help us in the long run.”

Want to see how Vyopta can help your team with the remote work transition?


Chad Swiatecki

Chad Swiatecki is a business writer and journalist whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Billboard, New York Daily News, Austin Business Journal, Austin American-Statesman and many other print and online publications. He lives in Austin, Texas and is a graduate of Michigan State University. Find him online on LinkedIn.