An Australian company called Legaler will be at ABA Techshow this week previewing its cloud platform that will enable lawyers to provide legal advice and consultations via video chat through a feature called LiveAdvice. The platform will also serve as a client portal for lawyer-client messaging, document sharing and scheduling.

Slated to launch in a public beta version in May, the focus of the platform will be on enhancing lawyer-client communications, its co-founder, Kia Kavoosi, told me in an interview last month. This initial release will feature real-time video advice, messaging, real-time notifications, document management, file sharing and scheduling.

Lawyers who use the site will get a profile page through which clients can connect with them for messaging and video chat. The video chat will work directly in a browser with no special software needed, Kavoosi said, as well as through an iOS app that the company also plans to release in May. Because it is cloud-based, lawyers and clients can connect through the platform at any time from anywhere.

“Clients are looking for a better way to communicate with their lawyers,” Kavoosi said. “They want to have easier, technologically enabled access and updates on their legal matters.”

Legaler custom built its own video app, Kavoosi said. It will enable one-click access to video chat through the Web or through the iOS app. An Android app will be released later.

This saves both the lawyer and client the time involved in meeting face-to-face, Kavoosi said. Meetings can take place quickly without the client having to travel to the lawyer’s office.

I asked Kavoosi why a simple phone call would not suffice for quick meetings of this type. He offered two reasons. One is the stronger connection that comes from a face-to-face video chat. The other is collaboration. The video will include a chat and messaging window where participants can share links and other information. At some point the company plans to add the capability to collaborate on documents while in the video chat.

The messaging function “will break down barriers between lawyer and client” and allow them to engage more organically, Kavoosi said.

Other platforms that have offered legal advice by video have failed because they have been cumbersome to use, Kavoosi believes. Legaler will be different because it will enable video chat with one or two clicks.

Initially, the video feature will be set up to facilitate communications between  lawyers and their existing clients. Eventually, it will expand to allow lawyers to meet with prospective clients.

Legaler is not designed to serve as a full practice management application. By focusing on lawyer-client communications, Kavoosi said, “we want to focus on the 20 percent of practice management that makes a difference for 80 percent of the lawyers.” Other practice-management functions may later be added to the platform through integration with third-party applications.

I have not yet seen a working demonstration of the platform. Kavoosi provided me with the screencaps you see above. If you are attending ABA Techshow this week, check them out and let me know what you think.

Last year, I wrote here about LawZam, a website (and, later, an iPhone app) that aims to connect consumers with attorneys by facilitating free, face-t0-face consultations via live videoconferencing. Now there is another site that does something similar, only this one uses Google Hangouts for lawyers and clients to meet by video.

This new site, LawyerCams.com, is the creation of Thomas P. Finley Jr., a sole practitioner in Dallas. It is designed to facilitate face-to-face initial consultations between lawyers and potential clients using the videoconferencing capabilities of Google Hangouts.

Unlike LawZam, which allows consumers seeking consultations to connect instantly with lawyers who are online, LawyerCams.com requires users to contact the lawyer and schedule a time for the video consultation.

In fact, LawyerCams.com is primarily a lawyer-listing service, not a videoconferencing service. Lawyers can list a profile on the site without agreeing to participate in video meetings online. If they do agree to participate in video meetings, they are free to decide whether to charge an initial-consultation fee.

With regard to its lawyer listings, the site says it is different from other such sites in its emphasis on social media. It encourages lawyers to list all their social media profiles and sites — including Google+, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs — so that potential clients can better evaluate the lawyer.

The site was only recently launched and, as far as I can tell, not a single actual lawyer has listed a profile. (There are several sample profiles.) Also, I could find no information on the site about the cost of a lawyer profile. However, when I clicked on the option to buy a profile, it took me to a shopping cart that indicated the price was zero dollars.

The site has a companion blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed.

An interesting footnote is that founder Finley says he had the idea for the site long before the technology was available to implement it. He actually bought the domain name “lawyercams.com” back in 2005, along with “attorneycams.com” and “legalcams.com.” “The founder strongly believes that face to face online video consultations, cams, and chat are what the public will begin to demand to save time and money in handling their legal matters,” he writes.

In this second of the four videos I prepared for the 38th ABA National Conference on Professional Responsibility panel, “Old Rules, New Tools: The Challenge of Social Media for Bar Associations and Lawyers,” I answer Simon Chester’s question, “Are you aware of any cautionary horror stories about ethical problems caused by lawyers’ use of social media?”

(For more on why I did these videos, see my first post of the series.)

Recently, I was scheduled to speak at the 38th ABA National Conference on Professional Responsibility as part of a panel, “Old Rules, New Tools: The Challenge of Social Media for Bar Associations and Lawyers.” About a week before the panel, a scheduling conflict arose in my day job that would keep me from being at the panel. When I told this to the panel organizer, Simon Chester of Heenan Blaikie in Toronto, he replied, “I’ve a wild idea.” His idea was for me to record four brief video segments in which I answer questions he would have put to me had I been present. He would then play my video during the panel, in place of the real me.

So that’s what I did. In this first of the four videos, I respond to the question, “Do social media present any special challenges or difficulties for firms, or are they just conventional marketing and client communications through different media?”

I don’t understand why lawyers think denigrating themselves and the profession is an effective marketing tool. Like the Nilan Johnson video I wrote about before, here is an attempt at humor that fails miserably. Lawyer as shakedown bully? Is that really the image this guy wants to present? I guess so, given this video and his URL of bullylawyer.com.

How many lawyers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? That’s the joke behind a new marketing video from the Minneapolis law firm Nilan Johnson Lewis. But is the joke on the firm?

Here’s the set-up: In an office-building lobby, a maintenance worker uses a pole to reach into a ceiling fixture and unscrew a presumably blown-out lightbulb. As he removes it, a group of five lawyers enters the lobby. One, talking on his mobile phone as he eyes the worker, says, “Wait a second, I got to take care of something right now.” With that, he reaches into his briefcase, pulls out a replacement bulb and takes the pole from the worker. Then, all five lawyers grab the pole and walk in unison in a circle, collectively screwing in the bulb. As they do, the words appear, “Team vs. Individual,” followed by, “We work together, so we win together.”

Yes, collaboration is a good thing. But not a good thing, at least in the eyes of the clients who pay the bills, is redundancy.

I understand that this video is tongue-in-cheek. According to an email I received, it represents “the latest in a long string of innovative marketing campaigns laced with subtle humor and the firm’s willingness to poke fun at itself.”

I like humor. Really I do. But even if the firm’s intent was to poke fun at itself, at what cost? Is the predominant message here a positive one? Isn’t the message, “Our firm will use five people to do the work of one”? The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t and shouldn’t take five lawyers to change a light bulb. If that’s how many lawyers you use to change a light bulb, how many are you going to send to a deposition?

Not to mention, the poor worker whose job it was to change the bulb appeared to be handling it just fine until the lawyers took it over. So the secondary message is, “We grab control without being asked of things that aren’t our business in the first place.”

I feel bad when a legal marketer brings something to my attention with obvious pride in what they’ve done, only to find myself disagreeing. To me, this video is funny only until you stop to think about it–or perhaps I should say, until a potential client stops to think about it.

Ah, but this post is not all sour grapes. The video was produced as part of a broader relaunch of the firm’s website and messaging. Here, the firm has succeeded. I have not gone back and looked at the firm’s former website, but its new site is nicely designed with strong messaging, simple navigation and good writing. I would rethink the video if I were them, but the website is a keeper.

Am I wrong about this video? What do you think?

The attorney general of Massachusetts, Martha Coakley, has launched a blog called At Issue & In Focus. The introductory post says:

This blog is designed to help residents to understand and participate in the work of their government. We will strive to address topics relevant to the broadest possible audience and will grow to include all the areas in which the work of this office affects Massachusetts residents, including consumers, families, businesses and others.

The AG’s office now also has a Twitter feed and an official YouTube channel. A statement of the AG’s Web communications policies says her use of Twitter “is intended as one-way communication” and the office will “not respond via Twitter to press inquiries, consumer complaints, or other constituent matters.”