6 Zoom standout features

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With online mediation overnight become the only way to hold mediations, some mediators have been forced for the first time, to take a leap into new territory… Online meeting software has been developing for years, but the software has developed matured into a very powerful and intuitive platform.

Zoom leaps ahead

Most of us have probably used Skype over the years and got frustrated with the lack of reliability of the platform, despite being taken over and given an overhaul by Microsoft. Zoom has quietly been gaining ground, and during the lockdown, many of us will have been using it for a virtual coffee or family quiz night (!) to communicate where it would otherwise have been impossible.

Zoom has integrated a number of features which just simply work, and for mediation are one of the keys to creating the healthy environment. Here are 6 reasons why we think you should move to zoom.

1) Simplicity of setting up meetings

Starting a new meeting is really easy – new meeting, which instantly starts the meeting and gives the option of sharing your screen, or schedule. For mediation appointments, you’ll need to use schedule, which then allows you to add the appointment to your favourite diary system:

You’ll notice that you can use a personal meeting id, so this would be the same for all meetings, not idea if you are scheduling lots of different meetings with different clients.

2) Ease of screensharing

Clearly sharing your screen so that clients can see an MOU, parenting plan, or financial information is an important feature. Zoom allows you to chose which of the current programs and view that you currently have open, that you want to share.

3) Waiting room facility

Replicates your office waiting room, placing one of your clients in the meeting room, and unable to hear your conversations with the other party. A number of mediators have said this is a fantastic feature which they have used in nearly all mediation meetings.

During the online meeting you can then select to put one of the participants into the waiting room when needed.

4) Host controlled screen sharing

As host of the meetings, you decide which screens can be shared, which prevents your clients from being able to share information without your permission. It is worth noting that once control has been passed to a client to share their screen, then would need to release it for you to take control. To ensure that they are only displaying what you want them to display, it is safer for you to ask them to send information to you, which you will then share at the appropriate time.

Zoom also provides advanced screen sharing options if required – we like the feature for displaying only a portion of a screen.

5) Extensive audio options

Whether you only have dedicated sounds from your laptop, or headset with micophone, Zoom enables you to mix and match the output and input requirements of your system as needed.

6) Directed chat

Sometimes it may be necessary to send a specific text message to one of the clients rather than using the audio. The direct chat enables you to send a text message direct to all clients or individual as necessary

Selecting the directed chat to a specific client

Conclusion

Having used a number of online meeting tools over the years, they certainly have come a long way. These 6) features make Zoom standout ahead of the pack for the purposes of mediation.

We’ve now integrated support for the three Zoom fields (meeting URL, meeting ID and password) into our case management software Progress Mediation, which are then sent out automatically via email to mediation clients, to make the process of creating online appointments more streamlined. If you want to find out more about integrating calendar reminders with Zoom meetings, please get in touch.

Now is the time for family mediators to embrace new technology

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We are living in unprecedented times as the coronavirus affects individuals, businesses and schools with a huge impact. As the government increases restrictions of social gatherings and movements to try and contain the virus, we know that this poses many challenges for mediation services and individual mediators. Deciding how to meet with clients and tracking all aspects of the cases are both real issues.

Now is the time more than ever before to embrace technology to assist, which will also have an impact on the long-term. Technology which has been rapidly evolving for a number of years and is ready to support this transition.

Video conferencing

Mediation has been an area that has been reluctant to embrace online mediation, because of the sensitive nature of family separation. However video conferencing can provide many benefits with cost and time savings compared to room bookings, for both MIAM and mediations. Software packages such as Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, along with FaceTime which some clients may be more familiar with. We’ve spoken with a number of services over the past few week that are already moving appointments to online with immediate effect.

Case management

We’ve been working with family mediation services since 2012, and we are here to support services through the challenges in the wake of the coronavirus.

Progress Mediation, is case management software designed to run online, whether you have a Windows or Apple Mac computer. All you will need is a browser with Microsoft Word, without needing to install extra software. Progress Mediation can help you through the mediation stages, without the need for a physical file. This makes it the perfect tool to run from home or an outreach location.

With the government imposing restrictions on everyday lives, this will put additional stress and strain on relationships, and when things return to normal people will need help. Now is the time to plan to make changes to meet the needs.

We regularly add new features in the case management software, and our clients are convinced Progress Mediation supports family mediation to make case management quicker and easier. Introducing standard templates and dynamic documents (for creating MoU’s) will have a significant impact in streamlining case management, saving time and money.

We’re here to help, so email or call us to talk about how we together support families around the UK.

Legal Aid Agency – Keycard 56

Last week we became aware of a revised Legal Aid Keycard, which became applicable from 6th April 2020.

The keycard details the latest allowance rates for dependants and employment expenses. To download the latest version of the keycard click here.

Our family mediation online case management system, Progress Mediation, integrates these values in the integrated Means7 Calculator tool. This can be used to determine the client financial eligibility, exporting the completed form for signing. To find out more visit our Product Tour.

Updated Notice of [intention to proceed with] a financial application – aka Form A

The MoJ have this week (w/c 1st June) released an updated version of ‘The Notice of [intention to proceed with] a financial application to which the standard procedure applies’ – otherwise known as Form A.

We’ve converted the form into a template, to enable our case management system to insert the mediator’s details onto the form, along with case information to prevent the form being used for other applications, once saved in PDF format.

The latest Form A can be downloaded from the MoJ pages on the Government website. If you’d like to know more information on how case management can help with case administration, then please get in touch.

LAA nil submissions are required

Whether you have carried out MIAM’s or completed mediation over the course of the past month, the Legal Aid Agency still require you to submit a return. It will need to be a nil return.

You can click on our link to the LAA site detailing how you can submit the nil return. Due to the lockdown, you may not have been able to submit a return before the 20th April for work carried out in March. However, before you are able to submit your April return, you will need to submit the nil return for March.

If you have been struggling with your monthly bulk upload submissions Progress Mediation can help you by automating the process. Please get in touch if you would like to know more.

Supporting online mediation

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic and consequent lockdown of the UK, the Legal Aid Agency has responded quickly to support online mediation to safeguard family mediators.

Zoom has emerged as the most reliable form of online meeting collaboration, and as a result, the calendar system of Progress Mediation has been updated to support the entry of additional fields defining online meeting information.

Along with calendar view, the email reminder service and template fieldcodes have been modified to support the additional fields.

Calendar appointment fields

Three additional fields are available for entering the meeting URL, meeting ID, and password and these are stored in the database along with the date and time. The meeting location is associated with the location of the case – which will need to be set for online mediation in the Willingness Stage.

Auto email calendar reminders

Once enabled, calendar appointments are automatically sent out via the integrated email system to clients, where email addresses have been entered in the client / partner settings for a case.

New appointments are sent out at 20:10 the evening of the day on which they are created. If these are then update, then a reminder of the updated information will be sent out at 20:10 the evening of the day the appointment is updated.

The day before the appointment, another email reminder is sent out at 12:05 the day before the appointment – if there is enough of a notice period after the appointment has been created.

An Internet Calendar Sharing (ICS) file is automatically attached to the email, which can be added to the client’s calendar on receipt of the email to act as an additional reminder.

A new case activity is automatically created to show that an email reminder has been sent out to the client / partner.

Template fieldcodes

In the same way that fieldcodes can be used to insert case details into templates for letters or emails, these can be used to insert the details of online appointment for sending out to the client.

Three fieldcodes enable the online meeting information to be inserted into letter / email reminders.

Progress Mediation has been especially designed to help with case management for mediation. For more information about how we can help to support families through the difficult times later this year, please get in touch.

Online mediation location classification for Legal Aid cases

As a consequence of the Covid:19, the Legal Aid agency provided new guidance for family mediation services to provide online mediation.

With the March bulk upload submission many mediation services are finding the MIAM cases being rejected by the CWA submission system because the location is not a formally recognised outreach location.

Several mediation services have fed back responses from their contract managers, suggesting to use the main office location (000) until clear guidance has been issued. Another contract manager suggested using the outreach location that would have been used for a face to face meeting if it had been possible, which would ensure that statistics for outreach locations are captured.

Progress Mediation allows the location of each appointment to be linked to a location on the system, and automated reminders are sent out to clients detailing where the MIAM or mediation will be taking place.

To prevent confusion, mediation services have been creating new locations to symbolize online mediation, so the reminder shows that it is Skype or Zoom. To save having to create multiple locations for online meetings which are linked to different outreach location codes, we recommend that mediation services create a single online location, linked to the main office.

MIAM’s are automatically pulled into the bulk online submission file ready for upload to the Legal Aid portal, specifying the main office location.

Beware of fake Zoom scams

Over the past four weeks, video conferencing software has seen a huge update in users amidst the Covid-19 lockdown affecting people around the world. Seen by many as the ‘go-to’ platform in the mediation circles due to reliability and security, Zoom Inc has seen membership rocket, with more new members in March alone compared to the whole of 2019.

However, success is often followed by those who seek to cash in, and Zoom is no exception. Internet domain registration companies have seen a huge rise in the purchase of similar domain names over the past few weeks, as hackers attempt to cash in on the boom, and use it as an opportunity to download phishing scams. In March alone, one cybersecurity company recorded over 2,200 domain names containing the word zoom had been registered.

Our advice is to always carefully check the weblinks sent to you, and for your clients, urge them to carefully check links before clicking – especially if they chose the option to download a program apparently linked to the Zoom application.

All Zoom links should be linked to the domain zoom.us, and all others should be avoided at all costs. E.g. https://us0xweb.zoom.us/j/12345678?pwd=89abcdefgh

Taking a few seconds to think before you click will save many hours of IT pain and heartache…

Ensure Zoom meeting password is set

Zoom-bombing is a federal offense (wonder if this will ever become a word in the Oxford English dictionary…) and pranksters are out in force, trying to gate-crash Zoom meetings where the meeting password hasn’t been set. The password feature has now been enabled by default in the latest download. Make sure when checking the meeting settings before you send out, that the password has been set.

Whilst on the subject, we’d recommend taking a monthly backup of your critical business data TODAY to protect against attacks such as ransomware – as tomorrow never comes…

At Protocol IT we’ve been passionately supporting #familymediation services for more than 10 years. So if you’re struggling with technology to support your service, then why not get in touch.

Scanners for the home office

Continuing our series for home working, we look at the need for scanning from our home office. Creating a PDF document from a paper copy is essential when dealing with signed documents. When you’re in the office it’s easy with an all-in-one printer. However, if you don’t have an combined printer, then it can be an issue. There’s plenty of ways to easy solve this problem and leave you setup for your mobile requirements in the future.

Mobile scanning apps

There are lots of apps available which integrate with the built in phone camera, but one which stands our for functionality is Tiny Scanner.

Almost anything you expect to be scanned could be perfectly recognized by Tiny Scanner. For instance, documents, books, receipts, notes, photos, IDs, passports, whiteboards, posters, cards, letters, newspapers, screens, licenses, menus, certificates, music scores, etc.

It’s available for download on the Google Play store and the Apple Store. Although currently £4.99 in the Apple Store, the comments and huge number of downloads speaks for itself.

We know that a number of mediators have downloaded this app and think it’s perfect for the job.

Portable handheld scanners

If you don’t have a phone with a suitably high definition camera, then you may want to look at a small handheld scanner. There’s plenty to chose from, and cheaper than getting a new smartphone!

One such device is the Iris – Iriscan Book 5 portable colour scanner. Simply roll the device across the document, and the image of the document will tbe saved automatically into the memory card. This can then be transferred to your computer. The scanner also has a built in OCR reader which converts the images into text to allow you to edit on your computer. It also can convert the text into audio files if you choose!

One of the disadvantages is the area which you can scan. If you are scanning a single sheet of paper on a flat surface, this is unimportant, but this is the “Book 5” and depending on your needs, this device cannot capture the whole page. If you are trying to create an document which is printed to the edge of the paper, this device is not capable of achieving this.

Brother have also provided a larger portable scanner which is capable of 2 sided document scanning. The Brother DS-720D Document Scanner does require that the documents are loose sheets to pass through the scanner, and therefore limited for some applications.

It does however enable the entire document to be scanned right up to the end of the document, unlike the Iriscan.

The included software supports saving the scanned image to a number of different destinations, to a local file or image, to a shared folder, email, FTP, or printer.

Brother DS-920DW Document Scanner supports wireless functionality, along with scanning of passports or drivers licenses for easy scanning.

Your choice will depend on how tech-savy you are. One point to consider is how you get the scanned image to your computer for saving or sending to a client.

LAA family mediation update : Reasons for Means7 Signature format

Following a meeting between the Family Mediation Council (FMC) and the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) on Friday of last week, the FMC yesterday released an update on the meeting.

In an effort to help mediation services support clients with legal aid cases, the Legal Aid Agency has published guidance covering the issue of obtaining signatures. They have confirmed that electronic signatures is now valid.

In the event that an electronic signature could not be obtained an email from the client showing the following is satisfactory:
a. an intent to take up the offer of legally aided family mediation (not just the expectation),
b. plus the client’s name with the intention that it is considered to be a signature, which should be contained in the body of the email. They have stated that ‘Whatever route to obtain the signature is obtained, the reason for this should be recorded on the case file.’

To support the new guidance, we’ve issued a live update in the Intake Stage of Progress Mediation.

This is one of the many benefits of using a hosted system, we’re able to provide quick updates as new guidance or changes are introduced, without the need for you to download and install software patches.

For more information on how Progress Mediation can help with case management, including support for the bulk monthly online submission to the LAA, please get in touch.

Headset recommendations

Along with a camera, using video conferencing software requires a microphone and speaker or headphones. Most laptops come with one or more microphones built in, along with speakers. However, some older laptops or desktop computers may be be fitted with these.

Regardless of whether you have speakers or microphones built into your computer, having a headset is helpful to ensure you can hear other people on the conference call.

Logitech H340

H340 USB Computer Headset 5

This connects using the USB connection on your computer, allowing both the speaker and microphone to operate.

Logitech 960

A cheaper option is the Logitech 960 , which is a light weight version, providing noise cancelling functionality, to reduce external noise that may be in the room.

960 USB Headset

Both these options are in great demand, and Logitech’s online store along with Amazon are currently showing these items are temporarily unavailable.