Mediators and attorneys across America are getting a crash course in video conferencing software due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many legal professionals are using these tools for the first time, and are understandably wary of the technology. After all, it should not only replicate the feeling of an in-person meeting as much as possible, but also needs to protect client information and other sensitive details, be reliable, be user-friendly and be effective. That can be a tall order.
If you’re struggling to decide which digital platform to use for your Florida e-mediation firm, there are three popular choices amongst mediators. Here’s a comparison between the three so that you can choose the platform best suited for your practice.
WebEx is a virtual meeting platform that can host up to 200 participants at one time; plans range from free to $26.95 per month. The biggest advantage of WebEx is that many IT professionals have identified it as the most secure out of these three options.
The problem with WebEx is that, while you can make separate “breakout rooms” as well as a joint session for everyone, you can’t send chat messages to anyone outside of your conference room. You either have to “pop in” rooms randomly or text and call the other parties. I suggest not only labeling the rooms very clearly, e.g., “JOINT SESSION,” but having participants mute their microphones while they’re waiting for you to rejoin their conference room. That way, no one accidentally hears anything they shouldn’t.
GoToMeeting is a similar tool that can host up to 250 participants. Pricing ranges from free to $39 per month, and all plans come with a 30-day free trial. The free trial requires access codes and PINs to protect privacy, but meetings are unlimited.
As with Zoom, GoToMeeting also offers a breakout room option. However, just like WebEx, you’re unable to communicate with people outside of the conference room unless you join their breakout room. This software focuses more on their screen sharing features—you can give participants access to your keyboard and mouse, for example—instead of webcam features that would help with the type of communication e-mediation typically requires. For example, there’s no way to poll users, nor is there a “raise your hand” feature so that participants don’t talk over each other.
However, GoToMeeting, like WebEx, is affordable and has plenty of features to make your experience productive and effective.
Finally, Zoom is another popular choice for e-mediators. Like WebEx and GoToMeeting, Zoom has a basic free plan, and professional plans are priced at $14.99 and $19.99 per month. Zoom offers group messaging and screen sharing options.
The biggest advantage of Zoom is that you can set it up to make it as secure—or not—as you prefer, which makes it popular in courtrooms, even for confidential proceedings. In some respects, it can be secure enough to be considered HIPAA-compliant.
For example, as a host, you can prevent or allow recordings of the procedure. You can also make people hang out in a virtual “waiting room” or “breakout room” until you join the conference, which prevents parties from talking to each other. Rooms can be password-protected, too.
While Zoom is more secure in some respects, it’s still not secure enough for some law firms and counties—check with your local procedural guidelines for more information. Another drawback is that you can’t privately message people who aren’t in your breakout room. You can only message everyone in the breakout rooms, all at once, to let them know you’re switching rooms.
Which software you choose will depend on your needs as a mediator. No one platform is perfect, so take advantage of the free trials in order to find the video conference software that works best for you.
This firm is comfortable working with clients who use any of these three platforms, so if you have a preference, be sure to let your mediator know when you set up your e-mediation. Get in touch with us today to learn more.