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Will Zoom win the videoconferencing wars?

by Hank Stout, ABA Law Technology Today

Social distancing and shelter-in-place orders have made videoconferencing a more than likely permanent feature of most workplaces. Various industries have met the challenge of a workforce operating predominantly from home in innovative ways over the last several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and chief among them is the Zoom call.

In December 2019, Zoom’s daily users numbered about 10 million; by April 9, it was 200 million. Whether you’ve been invited to or set up a Zoom call, or just heard about Zoom, it is clear that the videoconferencing platform is now a part of our culture. And it shows no signs of going anywhere anytime soon.

There are a number of reasons why Zoom has risen to the top as the must-have video chat app. Not only does Zoom use the “freemium” model, meaning that a free version is available to users who don’t need premium features, but it is known for its reliability and simplicity. It is also accessible on almost any device. Add in slick features — such as the ability to apply an Instagram-like filter to one’s appearance, the undeniably fun option to use a “virtual” background and the chance to share a user’s screen — and you’re also looking at an app possessing a coolness that its competitors lack.

Zoom staked out its territory early. For instance, in early March, the California-based technology firm announced free Zoom group video chats with no time limits for all students from kindergarten to 12th grade in the United States, Japan and Italy. For the schools and school systems that took advantage of the offer, the expectation is that they will continue to use Zoom for remote-learning purposes well beyond COVID-19, such as when students are sick at home or traveling. Zoom’s savvy business move not only locks Zoom in as an indispensable tool in the education world, it also solidifies the relationship between the app and its very young users who are now asked to learn and navigate Zoom to access their lessons.

Zoom similarly engaged in a very deliberate and forward-thinking way with the legal industry, which likely represents a significant market share. In our survey of all 50 states, more than half used Zoom exclusively in at least one court system, and in more than 70% of the states using Zoom, it was the only identified videoconferencing tool for the entire state’s courts. For instance, in Texas, Zoom secured a contract with the state’s Office of Court Administration to be the provider of choice for all legal proceedings and a license was provided to all State of Texas judges. Even though several videoconferencing tools were available before the pandemic took hold in the United States, by establishing itself as the preferred means for videoconferencing in the court system, Zoom has made itself an essential tool for law offices everywhere. If the past is any indicator, that brand loyalty will stay with lawyers well beyond the end of the current situation.

What will further cement the relationship between lawyers and Zoom is that the platform will be the first time most judges, lawyers and legal personnel will have participated in a videoconference. The legal industry is notoriously slow to adapt new technology, but COVID-19 has forced the profession to conform quickly to a new way of doing things with Zoom paving the way. In doing so, Zoom will become the de facto choice for these newly minted videoconferencing navigators in the future.

Hank Stout is the co-founder of Sutliff & Stout, Injury & Accident Law Firm. He is board certified in personal injury trial law and has actively tried personal injury cases for more than 15 years.

This column originally appeared here.

ABA Law Technology Today was launched in 2012 to provide the legal community with practical guidance for the present and sensible strategies for the future. LTT brings together practicing lawyers, technology professionals and practice management experts from a wide range of practice settings and backgrounds. LTT is published by the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center.

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