Faced with a large inter-state travel bill and the need to keep partners abreast of the latest law developments, Johnson Winter & Slattery (JWS) began the roll out of five videoconferencing systems in April 2012.
Speaking at Cisco Live in Melbourne, JWS CIO Ross Forgione told delegates that the Cisco TelePresence systems were installed in the boardrooms of its Adelaide, Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane offices.
“The [videoconferencing] design had to meet a couple of operational requirements,” he said.
“It had to be simple to use because we don’t have an IT support presence in every state. We needed a system where anyone could walk into a room, push a button and establish a call.”
After JWS’s lawyers started using the system internally, they invited clients into the videoconferencing areas. This meant that the lawyers could work with clients across Australia and internationally.
“You can’t throw everyone together in a plane so videoconferencing is the ultimate way of working and having that visual connection to discuss issues and work on documents,” Forgione said.
The TelePresence systems have been so successful that JWS has installed two more video conferencing systems in its Sydney and Adelaide offices.
“We have a third one planned for our Perth office and it’s just going to grow,” he said.
The second reason why Forgione chose to deploy TelePresence was to ensure that its 60 partners are kept abreast of changes to the law both in Australia and overseas.
He explained that for JWS, it was “very expensive” to send people out to conferences.
“We have the in-house expertise so we are using the system in our professional development sessions. By doing this, we have been able to uplift the experience for our staff members through high-definition video with content. This is not just static content with PowerPoint slides.”
Every session is recorded so if lawyers cannot attend in person they can access the recording from their desktop or on their iPad.
Cisco TelePresence is also being used to help teach graduate clerks who are placed with JWS. Some of the graduates come to the law firm for a month and undergo training with human resources managers.
“We can pick the right partner and have them mentor the graduate via video conferencing,” Forgione said.
“Six months ago we would either fly the partner around to do those sessions or we would fly everyone to a central location and fly them home again.”
In addition to rolling out TelePresence, Forgione also deployed Cisco Jabber and WebEx to increase collaboration within the firm.
Jabber integrates instant messaging, voice, video and voice messaging into video phones which have been rolled out to all staff.
The video phones also have a Click to Dial function which Forgione says he loves as he can call the person and see their face.
“Instantly you can make a great connection when you see a person,” he said. “It allows the IT guys, the HR people and back office staff to build a relationship with the lawyers who are conducting the work.”
While Forgione initially encountered some blank screens when he called people, this has changed as they got used to using video phones.
“In the first two months 50 per cent of the calls were to a black screen but there are now only three people left in the organisation that won’t turn their camera on,” he said.
The video phones have also been a drawcard for attracting Gen Y employees.
“The Gen Ys are all over it and the feedback I’m getting from the HR manager is that technology is helping to bring those people in the door and give them services they are comfortable with,” said Forgione.
Hamish Barwick travelled to Cisco Live in Melbourne as a guest of Cisco
Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick