Dorothy Secol, CLA
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What is video conferencing? It is communication that enables a person to see, hear and speak, as well as share documents and other information without having to travel to different locations or that matter without having to leave their office. Many law firms are using video conferencing for expert witness testimony, depositions, meetings and even live testimony during trial. By using video conferencing, firms save time and money but more important, it improves productivity and communication worldwide.

Firms need to look at video conferencing as ways to create new revenue streams, to create competitive advantages and improve the quality of relationships among co-workers and clients. The use of video conferencing also enhances communication and facilitates problem solving.

Firms can utilize video conferencing one of two ways; either purchase the equipment outright or select a video conferencing provider.

The cost of buying the equipment prior to 1998 was about $40,000.00. However, since 1998, several companies have made a tremendous impact on the availability of high-quality video and audio video conferencing. The top of the line video conferencing equipment costs approximately $11,999 and the lower-end units sell for as low as $3,999. To make contact with more than one location during a single conference call, multipoint video conferencing is used to connect to as many as four sites simultaneously without using an outside service to connect the calls.

For those firms who would use video conferencing occasionally, you would set up a video conference much the same way you would schedule a deposition and a court reporter. You need to arrange the meeting date and time, select a location and then select a video conferencing provider. The three main elements that make up the cost of video conferencing are the room rental, a service provider fee and telecommunication charges.

Throughout the U.S. the typical room and equipment rental costs are between $175 to $250 per hour during normal business hours, while international rooms average $250 per hour.

You can hire an outside company to locate equipment and rooms for a set fee, costing approximately $50.00 per hour for scheduling the room.

Telecommunication charges average about $150 per hour for a 384 Kbps (kilobits per second) call. A 384 Kpbs call uses six ISDN channels and will provide good quality sound and video.

Lower quality calls can be made at about $50.00 per hour. Making a call to more than one location and internationally increases the cost of the call.

There are more than 130 state courts using video conferencing today for first appearances. Twenty-six states use video arraignment technology to ease the pressure facing the judicial systems not to mention reducing prisoner transportation costs. Almost all the state courts in the U. S. have a policy that allows for video conferencing in the court systems according to Colleen Danos, an analyst with the National Center for State Courts (NCTS) in Virginia. The Federal Rules for Civil Procedure, Rule 43 (a), allows for the presentation of testimony in open court by contemporaneous transmission from a different location for good cause. Many U.S. District Courts are being remodeled to include installed video conferencing units or dedicated lines to which a unit can be connected.

It is projected that video conferencing will become a part of daily life. It is possible that in the future, communicating with clients, opposing counsel and the court system will take place directly from the attorney’s office.

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