Tips on the Art of Virtual Meetings
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This article was posted with the permission of the author and holder of the copy right Suzanne Quinn. It was first published on March 18th, 2022 in Lawyer’s Daily.
March 18, 2022 – Advancements in technology can, and usually do, improve efficiencies in operations in virtually any office or industry. The legal industry often seems like the last to jump on the technology bandwagon. It may be a function of due diligence: ensuring that the technology is safe, secure and a worthwhile expense in terms of cost vs. efficiency. It may be a function of how many of us are dinosaurs and stuck in our old ways, unwilling to embrace new technology because the old way works just fine. It may be a combination of both.
It took a global pandemic to force the hand of the legal industry and embrace or at least consider remote signing. The health of lawyers, staff and clients were significantly at risk and many lawyers and firms adopted new policies and new technologies to enable the remote client signing.
For those of you new to remote signing or wanting to explore it further, here are the top reasons why virtual remote signing can benefit your practice; and tips on what to look for when choosing a platform.
1. Client satisfaction. Allow your clients to meet with their lawyer from the comfort of their living room/office. There are a number of reasons why connecting with their lawyer remotely is not only convenient but could be a necessity for some clients. Providing this option adds a whole new level of customer service and satisfaction to those who want/need it:
- Clients who cannot take time off from work;
- Clients who cannot get child care;
- Clients who care for an aged parent and cannot leave them alone;
- Clients with physical disabilities or limitations; just to name a few.
2. Convenience. Increasingly clients prefer communication via e-mail, so they can communicate when it is convenient for them. The convenience of being able to set up a meeting without having to account for attending at the lawyer’s office in person and travel time is more valuable than many of us realize. The added convenience for the lawyer, being able to go home and take a meeting without having to stay at the office late to accommodate a late client meeting.
3. Logistics. Virtual client signings allow you to meet and obtain signatures from clients even when they are out of town, (at the cottage or halfway across the globe) or even better, when you are.
4. Expand your practice. With the use of technology and particular the virtual meetings, your practice no longer needs to be restricted to a specific geographical area. Expand your reach to anywhere in your city, your province, the entire country or beyond, depending on the practice area.
5. Safety. As was evidenced by a worldwide pandemic, the safety of lawyers, their staff and the clients were all put at risk with in-person meetings. Virtual meetings can protect staff and clients alike, whether in times of a pandemic, epidemic or just for those who may have compromised immune systems and should err on the side of minimal contact regularly.
6. Emergency situations. No doubt there are extreme situations where clients may be in hospital or too ill to leave their residence. In these cases a virtual meeting may be not only the best option but the only one.
Choosing Your Platform
1. One stop shop. Look for a platform that offers the videoconference and electronic signing all in one. Saves on subscriptions for multiple platforms, more convenient and way more efficient.(eg. Syngrafii). No more Band-Aid solutions with multiple platforms.
2. 3, 2, 1 action! Be sure that your platform allows you to record and save meetings. Consider the space allowed for recordings, whether the recordings are downloadable and whether there is additional cost for extra storage space.
3. Identity verification is one of the most important aspects of the virtual or videoconference meeting. A law society requirement is to take ID and check its veracity and know your client. This is definitely more challenging virtually than in person, all the more reason to use a platform that allows for screen capture or allows for ID to be embedded with the signature block once client takes a photo of their identification with their smartphone.
4. Witness signatures. If you choose a platform that combines virtual meeting with document signing, you will be able to watch your client apply their signature on their smartphone to the document on the screen, and see the signature appear on the document you are reviewing with the client. As close as you will get to being there in person.
5. Multiple signatories and meeting attendees. Make sure the platform will allow for multiple signatories to the same document. Much easier if you can all attend the meeting at the same time, watch each other sign and have the witness/commission affix their signatures in real time.
6. Ability to perform e-notarization remotely. This will become increasingly important moving forward as regulatory acceptance expands.
7. Security. Preserving the integrity of the meeting and the signed documents is paramount. Look for a platform that offers an audit trail and/or compliance certificate showing the authenticity of the signatures on the documents. A key factor if the document is ever later challenged. Documents should be shared with all participants and encrypted so they cannot later be altered.
There may be other factors that are important to you such as price, ease of use, etc. but the foundation of prudent remote witnessing really lies in the security and the integrity of the process and the document. Most platforms will provide free demonstrations and some even a free trial, or atrial for a nominal fee. It is definitely worth investing the time to try it out. This is one technological advance no firm should be without.
Suzanne Quinn, firstname.lastname@example.org, has been practicing law for 22 years in the areas of real estate, wills and estates, family and corporate law. She has spoken internationally on her areas of expertise and is also a certified mediator. Suzanne currently consults to companies and law firms on legal technology, law firm startup and relevant practice areas.