Training the next generation of Meredith Connell’s crown solicitors on Zoom
New Zealand’s largest litigation firm uses Zoom’s communication platform to attract, train, and retain top talent.
Headquarters: Auckland, New Zealand
Challenges: Connecting a distributed workforce, scaling teams amongst fluctuating industry demands, and recruiting staff globally
Solution: Zoom Team Chat, Zoom Rooms, Zoom Meetings, Zoom Webinars, Zoom Phone
Business benefits: Simplified access for remote working, streamlined remote recruitment, improved work-life balance for employees, facilitated virtual court appearances, and improved in-house training capabilities for junior lawyers
For years, vendors touted the idea of unified communications, but they all failed to deliver. Zoom truly defines this experience while integrating seamlessly throughout our meeting rooms and fully mobile workforce.
Sean BirchIT manager, Meredith Connell
Meredith Connell’s IT manager Sean Birch first used Zoom as a video conferencing solution. Under previous suppliers, IT staff were wasting precious hours setting up video calls and being on hand ‘just in case.’ Zoom Rooms eliminated this issue and Sean began exploring other Zoom solutions to create a unified communications experience. Then, as the New Zealand (NZ) government announced the first lockdown, this process was drastically expedited.
“A week or two into the pandemic, 98% of our staff was online,” Sean said. “It was baptism by fire but people were adapting easily to using Zoom Team Chat and so on. That was all the proof we needed. We knew it worked, so we grew it from there.”
Rising to the challenges of modern litigation
The majority of New Zealand courts now conduct many hearings virtually. Having reliable and flexible video conferencing facilities in-house is an essential part of that. And, with electronic discovery legislation replacing the old process of manually examining paperwork, safeguarding sensitive data is more important than ever.
Our office deals with serious crime and information about individuals and victims. So everything we do is underpinned by security.
Sean BirchIT manager, Meredith Connell
By using the Zoom platform as the foundation of their communications, Sean and his team enabled the firm’s litigators to thrive in a new normal while also adhering to the Department of Internal Affairs’ substantial security guidelines.
Professional and personal flexibility
For criminal litigators, flexible working is more than just the ability to work from home or pick up the kids from school during the workday. Routinely balancing office collaboration with court appearances, they inevitably have to operate from multiple locations.
“Before Zoom, our satellite offices in Auckland courts would become very crowded with people either fighting over desktop computers, hogging the phone lines, or just hanging around eating biscuits because they didn’t have the space or facilities to work. Now, with a laptop and a cell phone installed with Zoom, they can meet their obligations at home, in the office, from court, or in a cafe down the street,” Sean said.
This — combined with the ability to dial into a court hearing from anywhere — means that lawyers can reduce travel, optimise their time, and work more efficiently. This flexibility also extends to the personal side. The firm has recently implemented a policy to allow staff to work remotely from anywhere in the world for up to 4 weeks of the year. This morale booster enables staff to travel and visit family or friends while still meeting work obligations via Zoom.
‘Lawyers are busy — they need something that just works.’
In an industry where workloads fluctuate depending on the case at hand, scalability and ease of use were key priorities for Sean’s team. With the ability to redeploy staff and engage additional lawyers using a Zoom meeting link, the firm can adapt quickly to ever-changing demands and enlist expert litigators regardless of their physical location.
The ability to move seamlessly between Zoom solutions and invite various people into the conversation when needed has improved operational efficiency. Various departments and teams can collaborate more easily, and decision-makers can get answers to their questions quickly, if not instantly.
“It’s getting people in the same room without getting people in the same room,” Sean said.
Moving the mobile workforce to Zoom Phone
After the first Auckland COVID lockdown, MC identified a need for a more flexible phone solution to service its mobile workforce. This was coupled with a move into new premises where there would be no LAN cabling to desks, only wifi, so desk phones needed to be a thing of the past.
“We already used Zoom Meetings, Webinars, and Team Chat, so it made sense to look at Zoom Phone as a successor to our desktop physical phone system. We knew staff would be familiar with the software, and they already had confidence in it given their experience with the other Zoom products,” Sean said.
“For years, vendors touted the idea of unified communications, but they all failed to deliver. Zoom truly defines this experience while integrating seamlessly throughout our meeting rooms and fully mobile workforce,” he added.
Recruiting and training top talent over Zoom
Zoom’s accessible communication tools enabled the law firm to capitalise on the influx of talent moving or returning to New Zealand during the pandemic.
“Until we had the Zoom implementation, a lot of partners were reluctant to hire someone without actually sitting across the table from them. But we’ve done the majority of our recent hiring over zoom with confidence — from junior lawyers through to executive-level personnel,” Sean said.
Meredith Connell’s in-house replica of a courtroom from New Zealand’s High Court also provides unparalleled training opportunities for junior lawyers. From the furniture and carpets down to the microphones, this training facility was meticulously designed to replicate the experience of arguing a case at High Court. And, equipped with two large monitors and multiple cameras, this Zoom-powered facility can accommodate expert witnesses via video link as well as record proceedings for future performance analysis.
“Being able to do that once a week or even once a day in our own courtroom means that our lawyers get significantly better and more expedited training. Zoom is the backbone of that training experience for our young lawyers,” Sean said.
‘We’d struggle to function without Zoom’
As courts, clients, and processes continue to rely on new technology, Sean believes that continued use of Zoom will be integral to the firm’s success moving forward. And, with Sean exploring various app integrations and the company expanding its client base in China, there are plenty of exciting opportunities ahead.
“A week or two into the pandemic, 98% of our staff was online. It was baptism by fire but people were adapting easily to using Zoom Team Chat and so on. That was all the proof we needed. We knew it worked, so we grew it from there.” – Sean Birch, IT manager, Meredith Connell