LawToolBox announces a new feature that automates “breakout rooms” for Microsoft Teams, enhancing virtual meetings for Teams specifically for court hearings and depositions. As courts and litigants adjust to the Coronavirus pandemic, the new reality is setting in that there has already been an irreversible shift to conduct much of the courts business virtually. Microsoft Teams is a long-term solution that will not just get lawyers and courts up and running today … but will also provide a secure, robust and modern collaboration environment for the foreseeable future.
Microsoft Teams delivers high-quality video conferencing and lets everyone in the proceeding see and discuss documents and exhibits clearly and easily. And because Microsoft stores client data in a local data center, even courts in the government cloud with strict oversight and security policies can safely manage hearings. Microsoft has rolled-out new features that will improve virtual hearings in Microsoft Teams including:(1) nine panel view of web conference, (2) ability to raise hand to get court and counsel attention without interrupting proceedings, and (3) custom backgrounds.
However, Teams out-of-the-box has been missing is a one-click break-out rooms With its new release, LawToolBox has automated the creation and configuration of the hearings with breakout rooms for sidebars with the court, attorneys and pro se parties; as well as breakout rooms for confidential and secure meetings between attorneys and their clients:
- MAIN EVENT – HEARING. While court personnel can be automatically admitted to proceedings, external user like attorneys, parties and witnesses will sit in a waiting room until admitted to the proceeding by the court clerk. Witnesses will be in the meeting waiting room until the clerk admits them to the proceeding. This means no “zoom-bombers” in these proceedings! This proceeding can be recorded by the clerk and transcribed by Teams, but the recording will only be available to the court after the hearing is over. Teams features like chat, whiteboard and PowerPoint will only be visible to court personnel. The clerk has full control to remove anyone from the main hearing at any time (for example a witness who is done testifying).
- SIDEBARS. The clerk of the court will mute all the attendees in the main event and share the clerk’s screen with a message that reads “The court proceeding will continue shortly”, and then start the sidebar meeting and admit the judges, counsel and pro se parties from a waiting room into the sidebar breakout room. Just like with the main proceeding, the sidebar can be recorded and transcribed by Teams, the recording will only be available to the court after the hearing is over, and Teams features like chat, whiteboard and PowerPoint will be disable for external users and will only be visible to court personnel.
- CONFIDENTIAL CLIENT MEETINGS. Just like with a sidebar meeting, the clerk of the court will mute all the attendees in the main event and share their screen with a message that reads “The court proceeding will continue shortly”, and then start the “Confidential Client Meeting” admit the counsel and their client from a waiting room into the private breakout room, and then the clerk will leave the meeting but the attorney and client will be able to talk in private. Teams features like chat, whiteboard and PowerPoint will be disable for the attorney ad client because they are external users.
- EXHIBITS. Even though attorneys and pro se parties will submit legal papers and exhibits in advance of the proceeding, often there are last minute pieces of evidence that need to be submitted the night before or during a hearing. The clerk of the court can include a link to a SharePoint folder in the main hearing invite or any breakout room as needed that will allow attorneys, parties, or witnesses to upload and share last-minute files (this access can be configured to allow attendees to upload a new file but obviously not edit any file to protect the integrity of the evidence).
Enabling these breakout rooms all within Teams ensures that microphones in the main event are muted during sidebars and confidential meetings, and that the proceedings can run smoothly with minimal interruptions. During breakout meetings the original meeting will be placed on hold, and the break-out participants meet in private (the clerk stays on the original hearing meeting to ensure that participants stay muted). Further streamlining and simplifying any hearing, after a court sets up a breakout room it can later re-use that meeting for the same attendees in all subsequent proceedings in that case. During the hearing the clerk can send an email to any attendee in case they are having difficulty finding the right meeting.
Between Microsoft Teams and LawToolBox, courts have all the tools they need to manage virtual proceedings securely and efficiently:
|Features for Virtual Proceedings||Microsoft||LawToolBox|
| High-quality Virtual meeting |
3 x 3 video
Live Stream to YouTube
|virtual Hearing navigation dashboard||X|
|breakout room – sidebar||X|
|breakout room – attorney client||X|
|external user waiting room||X|
|bot to help manage breakout rooms||X|
|daily onboarding webinars||X|
|link to case management||x|
Beyond automating breakout rooms for Teams, LawToolBox delivers many other tools like assigning hearings to matters, delivering robust reports, integrating calendaring in Outlook powered by rules-based deadlines, streamlining file-sharing in SharePoint, daily onboarding webinars, and linking to case management.
When you combine the native features of Microsoft Teams with LawToolBox, not only do you get a great LawToolBox dashboard for all the data and tools courts and attorneys need, but now you get a tool to easily and simply configure and manage breakout meetings. By automating breakout rooms for Teams, LawToolBox further solidifies its place as a critical component of a complete virtual hearing solution in Microsoft Teams.