California Bar Journal
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA - APRIL 2000
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California Bar Journal

The State Bar of California


REGULARS

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Front Page - April 2000
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News Briefs
Election schedule set for board, CYLA vacancies
Bar court judge appointments process to be reviewed
Newest board member dies
Ventura County mobile legal center cited by ABA
ABA offers three CLE programs
Bar, Western State plan annual ethics symposium
Penalty for late bar dues moved to April 28
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Legal Tech - UM: The leading edge of convergence
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Opinion
From the President - Link starting salaries with service
Easy to destroy, hard to rebuild
2 trains on a collision course
Keep the judiciary independent
Letters to the Editor
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MCLE Self-Study
Viewing the Subdivision Map Act
Self-Assessment Test
MCLE Calendar of Events
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Public Comment
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Discipline
Ethics Byte - More on the written agreement
Charges of grand theft, sexual battery lead to bar hearing
Attorney Discipline

LEGAL TECH

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UM: The leading edge of convergence
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By DANA SHULTZ
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Dana ShultzPerhaps you have been feeling the buzz around “convergence,” the coming together of data, voice, images and other forms of information as a single entity. Let’s explore a leading-edge aspect of convergence: unified messaging (UM).

Different people have different definitions for key terms in the UM world. The definitions I prefer are:

Unified messaging is the ability to receive and reply to voice, e-mail and fax messages (and to receive notification of same) in a single mailbox that is accessible from both computers and telephones.

Integrated messaging is a form of UM that stores voice, e-mail and fax messages on separate servers but presents them to the user in a single view.

Benefits

UM helps people become more productive in many ways:

Users get their messages from a single source at once rather than three sources at different times.

Users can retrieve and process their messages from either a computer or a telephone, whichever is more convenient at the moment.

Users need not go to fax machines to pick up incoming faxes; instead, faxes come to users.

Users can browse voice messages more quickly using a computer’s direct-access capabilities than they can on a telephone.

UM is particularly valuable for two types of users. The first is the user who receives many messages, such as help desk personnel. Savings of even a few seconds become meaningful when they are repeated dozens or hundreds of times per day.

The second type is the user who is out of the office a lot, such as a litigator. The flexibility to use either a telephone or a computer allows the user to take advantage of time when it is available. For example, at an airport telephone, you can listen to and respond to voice messages; have e-mail messages read and filed; and forward faxes.

Costs and limitations

Like any other new technology, UM has its costs and limitations. Many businesses find it difficult to quantify the value of professionals’ productivity, so they have trouble deciding whether an investment in UM is justified.

UM is based on Internet standards such as the Internet Protocol (IP), so some existing systems need to be upgraded or replaced first. In many firms, two different groups manage information technology and telecommunications; UM requires that these two groups be brought together and integrated.

Faxes and voice messages are an order of magnitude larger than e-mail messages, so UM greatly increases network storage and throughput requirements.

Traditionally, computer networks have not been as reliable as voice systems, so some people fear that voice messages will be lost or will be temporarily unavailable under UM.

Vendors

Many vendors have their fingers in the UM pie. These include, for example:

Phone switch providers, such as Lucent Technologies (http://www.octel.com/service_providers/um/), Nortel Networks (http://www1.nortelnetworks.com/entprods/messaging/callpilot/index.html) and Siemens (http://www.icn.siemens.com/icn/products/messaging/xpressions/xp470.html).

Microsoft, which announced that Exchange will have UM storage capabilities.

Providers of outsourced UM services, such as Virtualplus (http://www.virtualplus.com/products.htm)

If you want more information, the Unified Messaging Consortium provides easy-to-understand definitions, reports and more at its website, http://www.unified-msg.com/.

Dana Shultz is an Oakland-based attorney and certified management consultant specializing in computer technology and the Internet. He may be reached by e-mail at dhshultz@ds-a.com and on the Web at www.ds-a.com.