During the pandemic and while working from home, we have become dependent on video conferencing platforms, primarily Zoom and Teams. And although people are returning to the office, it seems unlikely that we will see a major decrease in the use of video conferencing as, while not a complete substitute for face-to-face, it has proven to be a perfectly acceptable and convenient way of conducting personal and business meetings. That said, for more complex meetings - such as hearings, arbitrations, mediations, negotiations, and witness conferences - neither platform is ideal, with compromises being made and other products being utilised to address any shortcomings.
Firms have explained that since the pandemic commenced most hearings have been run via Zoom or Teams, where they typically have a VC room set up for the bench (their counsel etc) and then another video feed going to another room (without a camera) for our legal team with the legal team (counsel and lawyers) using messaging solutions to chat/communicate. Some of the shortcomings with these arrangements can include microphone issues and sharing documents when using the screen sharing feature. While this approach works it is complex and cumbersome.
An end-to-end platform that has been specifically built to address the nuanced legal requirements of dispute resolution proceedings including protections for legal privilege and ethics is Immediation. We asked senior IT people and lawyers from several firms, including Corrs Chambers Westgarth, Barry Nilsson, Colin Biggers Paisley, McPherson Kelley and Makinson d’Apice, to join an online viewing and to share their insights. The demonstration of Immediation was conducted by its Founder and CEO, Laura Keily.
Laura is a barrister and entrepreneur with an extensive legal and business background as a corporate lawyer, company director, business adviser and in-house counsel for listed corporates. Laura was awarded Innovator of the Year by the Women's Barristers Association in 2020 for her work in pioneering online mediation, as well as being awarded "Australasia's Most Influential Lawyer - Changemaker" in 2021 for her work in pioneering online dispute resolution. This experience has allowed Laura to build Immediation from the ground up on a propriety platform that is hosted on Azure and was launched in 2019. The platform is extremely secure and has ISO27001 certification, doc-encryption, GDPR compliance, and is feature sensitive to legal ethics and confidentiality. It is compliant with the world's most stringent privacy standards and data is encrypted in transit and at rest.
Besides excellent security credentials, other features of Immediation that were appreciated are that firms can subscribe as a white label service and have their own branding, as well as being able to have additional custom features developed. Other positive comments include the granular controls for room management, the greater control over document sharing and collaboration, the fact that it is easy to move to private rooms, that there is analytics available on document editing and that Immediation will shortly be able to provide speech-to-text transcriptions of sessions. Immediation also offers end-to-end case management and evidence management for dispute resolution practices and centres.
A feature that Neil Blum, CIO at Barry Nilsson, thought would be of considerable value was a transcription, as they 'had just finished manually recording a two-day conference and had to upload the digital dictation and have someone transcribe'. Sam Sofianos, CIO at CBP, shares this view and has plans for 'further demonstrations before introducing Immediation to relevant practice teams in the firm’.
Immediation currently has integration with a number of document management systems and further integrations are being considered. One observation that was made by some of the participants was the impact of the platform on user CPUs. Performance issues on CPU have been addressed by the Immediation team over time to ensure great performance, stability and resilience.
Something that all participants agreed on was that the functionality and the cost of Immediation should ensure that the platform gains broad adoption within the legal community. An indication of this is the recent announcement by Immediation of its partnerships with Clio and Maxwell Chambers in Singapore.
My colleague, Patrick Ng, concludes that 'beyond some of the particularly cool features such as integrated mediation agreements and so forth, Immediation constitutes a remarkably natural innovation that at its core, leverages the logistical strengths of video conferencing – explicitly presenting these benefits to participants in the mediation and arbitration space. This seems simple enough, yet surely the ensuing reduction in physical attendance and administrative costs for participants combined with lower barriers to attendance has the potential to make the process fairer, more accessible, less daunting, and hopefully less confronting.'
Authored by John Duckett, Director of InPlace Solutions