3 Ways to Get Creative With Google Hangouts

It’s the time of year when resolutions abound, and in spite of a bleak success rate (only about 8% of Americans actually succeed in keeping their resolutions), I am seizing this opportunity to shake up my routine. Most resolutions focus on personal improvement—exercising more often, eating better, getting more sleep—but this year I’m stepping away from the pack and resolving to get creative with technology.

Please know that I am not an “early adopter.” I’m not one of those people that is always keen to try out the latest and greatest in technology. When I find a technology I like, I learn it and commit to it until I am forced to let go. But, no longer! This year I have resolved not only to try to integrate some new tech tools into by toolbox, but also to be more flexible, open, and creative with the technology I use regularly.

My first target with this fresh perspective? Google+ Hangouts.

Hangouts is not new (I told you I wasn’t an early adopter). Launched in 2013 and significantly “refreshed” in 2014, Google+ Hangouts has become a popular (and free) web-based videoconferencing platform that allows up to 15 users to meet, or “hangout,” face to face via HD video (if you don’t have or want to use the video feature, you can also hangout using voice calls or text).

I’ve used Hangouts mostly for conducting virtual meetings with colleagues who are not in my local area, but they can be used in many more creative ways. For example, Hangouts can be used to stream live broadcasts and host webinars that can be recorded and posted on YouTube (see Heidi Alexander’s post on how attorneys can use Google+ Hangouts for marketing purposes). They can also be used to hold mini-conferences that allow like-minded professionals to meet cheaply, easily, and regularly to discuss and debate predetermined topics (which is great for networking). In short, many professions—including the legal profession—are getting creative in the way they use Hangouts (see here and here for a couple of examples).

Inspired by these posts and others, I offer three examples of how legal professionals could get creative with Hangouts:

  1. Hold lawyer “office hours.” Many clients (or potential clients) may have questions about you and/or  your firm. They may want to know how your billing works or they may want to learn more about the work your firm does. Instead of pointing them to a website, you could hold a monthly “office hour” where clients could ask you questions directly. You may also want to experiment with offering an office hour/webinar where you provide some general legal information (not legal advice!) for some of your most frequently asked questions. Participants can submit questions via Hangouts beforehand so you can be prepare yourself prior to the live “office hour.” Bonus: you can record the sessions and then post them on YouTube and your website for clients who missed the Hangout.
  1. Demonstrate something. Is there a particular form that clients are consistently filling out incorrectly? Use Hangouts to create a video that provides a step-by-step demonstration on how to fill out the form. As B.L. Ochman points out in her post on JurisPage, video content created in Google+ is prominently featured in search results, giving those who create content in Hangouts a distinct search advantage. Here you are helping your clients and improving your visibility on Google.
  1. Improve access to justice. While my first two examples can be great for engaging clients, networking, and marketing, think about how Hangouts could be used for providing better access to justice. Consider how many self-represented litigants (SRLs) might benefit from some Hangout content—like a Q&A session that answers questions we take for granted—questions like, “How do I address a judge in court?” Or, what about a step-by-step video demonstration showing SRLs how to fill out particular court forms? With a little effort, Hangouts could be used to create an online community of SRLs and legal professionals that who can benefit from “hanging out” a little more often.

I’ve already confessed that I’m likely behind the curve on this; there are plenty of lawyers out there already using Hangouts creatively and effectively—in fact, the Ochman post I mentioned above provides links to a number of popular Google+ legal communities—but nonetheless, I’m going to consider myself off to a good start on my resolution. In researching this post I’m already considering a number of new ways that I could integrate Google+ Hangouts into my organization.

Are you using Hangouts or a similar platform? Will you be injecting renewed creativity into your method?  Share your thoughts in the comments section.

About Nicole Aylwin

Nicole Aylwin
Nicole Aylwin is the Assistant Director of the Winkler Institute for Dispute Resolution at Osgoode Hall Law School. She is also the Acting Executive Director at the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, a national not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancing of civil justice reform. She has previously taught at York University, Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Her current research interests include justice sector innovation, access to justice, civil justice reform, and, aboriginal dispute resolution.

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