Adapted and Excerpted from Google Gmail and Calendar in One Hour for Lawyers by Carole A. Levitt and Mark E. Rosch, now available from LPM Publishing.
From a practical, day-to-day perspective, the cloud-based Google Apps suite’s Calendar and Gmail offer a number of advantages over conventional software. As Eric Hunter of Bradford & Barthel wrote in a guest post on the Official Google Enterprise Blog, “Technology like Google Apps and social applications are creating a culture where the legal industry is much more connected with clients and clients have much more access to information about the law. Our primary reason for investigating Google Apps back in 2009 was to start preparing our firm to keep up with this new culture of constant communication and to help employees enhance client relationships through better sharing and collaboration.”
“Since we migrated to Google Apps in April 2010,” Hunter wrote, “We’ve made collaboration much easier and more efficient through the use of Google Sites, Google Docs, and shared Google calendars,” Hunter added. “Our attorneys have found Google Apps to be intuitive and flexible.”
Here are some other reasons why your firm should consider making the switch to Google products.
Access Your E-mail from Any Web-enabled Device, From Anywhere at Anytime
You can check and send e-mail or add events to your calendar using any device from anywhere, as long as it has an Internet connection. The device could be your laptop or desktop computer (or one at a hotel’s business center). The device could also be almost any web-enabled mobile device such as Android, iOS (iPhone or iPad), BlackBerry, or Windows Phone using the device’s dedicated Gmail application, or through a web browser.
Automatically Sync Your E-mails and Calendar
With conventional calendar and e-mail software, you may have to install software on each device and then manually sync your data frequently. With Google Calendar and Gmail, you do not need to install any software and you do not need to manually sync any of your devices; it happens automatically because the suite tools and your data live in the cloud.
Integrate with Practice Management Software
As practice management software has evolved, vendors of traditional and cloud-based practice management software have built-in the ability to integrate messages and/or appointments from Gmail and Google Calendar into their products. Some of the most popular of these include Abacus, Advologix, Clio, HoudiniESQ, MyCase, and Rocket Matter.
When discussing Rocket Matter’s integration with Google Calendar, company CEO and Founder Larry Port explained, “Our Google Calendar integration is a full-two way sync and allows users to leverage Google’s powerful calendaring tools and Rocket Matter’s billing capabilities. The two-way sync supports advanced functionality like recurring events, alarms and notifications, and coordination across all attendees of an event,” for example. “Since Google Calendar integrates with a variety of software and devices, Rocket Matter two-way synching extends to those platforms as well: an event created in Rocket Matter will show up in Outlook, Apple’s iCal, or Android, iPhone, and iPad mobile devices,” he continued.
• The Google Apps accounts range from free to $50 or $100 per user per year (as of this writing), depending on which type of account you select (see page xxv, Types of Google Accounts) vs. the $200 price for one copy of Microsoft Office Home and Business.
• There are no upgrade costs. When new features and functions are introduced to the Google Apps suite, they appear automatically.
• You may be able to reduce your IT expenses because Google’s engineers are maintaining the servers that handle your mail.
The Health and Security of the Servers That House Your Data Are Monitored 24/7
Google’s engineering staff:
• Regularly update their servers to include the most up-to-date security patches.
• Continually test their servers’ hard-drives and replace them before they fail, so you don’t lose any of your data.
• Create redundant back-ups of your data to guard against loss.
• Physically secure their data centers with fences, guards, and key card and biometric access.
• Give random file names to “data chunks” and do not store the data in clear text, which makes them not humanly readable to anyone but you and those with whom you share the document.
Gmail Provides You with Large Storage Space for Your Messages and Offers Large File-Attachment Limits
Free Gmail accounts and free Google Apps Accounts now come with 10 gigabytes (GB) of storage space for e-mail messages and attachments. You can upgrade a free account to 25 GB for $2.49/month, but Google Apps for Business accounts already come with 25 GB of storage space as part of the $5 per user monthly fee.
Gmail Provides Strong Spam-Filtering
Regardless of how you access your messages (e.g., from your laptop, your phone, Outlook . . .), you will benefit from Gmail’s strong spam-filtering capabilities.
Google Provides Powerful Search and Retrieval Capability for Gmail and Calendar
Because Gmail and Calendar are operated by Google—a well-known and powerful search engine for the web, they benefit from the same powerful search-and-retrieval capability when you are trying to find a message, an attachment, or an event.
Types of Google Accounts
There are seven account types you can create to access the tools described in this book.
The type that you’re probably most familiar with is the free consumer Gmail Account (e.g., email@example.com). This type of account is meant for the personal use of one individual. If you have a Gmail address, you already have access to the free versions of these tools. To set up a Gmail account if you don’t already have one, visit http://www.gmail.com. All e-mail and documents created in this consumer version are connected to a generic firstname.lastname@example.org address (e.g., email@example.com).
Beyond the free consumer Gmail Account, there are six other types of accounts for accessing Gmail, some free and some paid. They are intended for business use and are called:
• Google Apps. (Free.) You can customize these tools for your own Internet domain name (e.g., netforlawyers.com), with up to 10 users with a customized e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org). Note that as of December 2012, new customers can no longer create these types of free accounts, but they will remain free to those who had already created them.
• Google Apps for Business. (Paid; $5 per user (for an unlimited number of users) per month or $50 per user per year when automatically billed to a credit card.) While similar to the free Google Apps version, this type of account adds greater storage capacity, additional security features for mobile devices, dedicated technical support, and certain service guarantees.
• Google Apps for Business with Vault. (Paid.) An additional $5 per user per month adds the Vault corporate message retention, governance, and compliance tool (discussed in Lesson 20) to a Google Apps for Business account.
• Google Apps for Education. (Free.) This account is the same as the Google Apps for Business account, but it is provided for free to selected educational institutions.
• Google Apps for Government. (Paid.) Available to governmental agencies, this account is the same as the Google Apps for Business account.
• Google Apps for Non-Profits. (Free.) Provided for free to selected non-profit organizations, this account is the same as the Google Apps for Business account.
All of these accounts work the same way and offer the same level of security. However, the paid accounts offer a few additional features, such as more technical support, more storage space, guarantees of service (a.k.a. uptime), and the ability to disable ads in Gmail, among others. Therefore, while we’ve stated that this book focuses on these tools as accessed via the paid Google Apps for Business account, the information is applicable no matter which type of account you are using. One small difference between the free and paid accounts is that the free account uses the label “Gmail” for e-mail messages while the paid account uses the label “Mail.” Depending on which account was used when we took screen shots, you will see one or the other.
Which Type of Account Is Appropriate for Lawyers?
We used to recommend that solos and small firms begin by using the free Google Apps Account to test drive the service and that larger firms and government agencies begin with Google Apps for Business from the outset. But, as noted earlier, the free Google Apps Account no longer exists for new users, so all lawyers will need to sign up for the Google Apps for Business account. Even with its (minimum) $50 per user per year price tag, it can still be a big cost-saver compared with other e-mail service providers. It’s also a good choice because it comes with technical support while the free account did not. Fortunately, Google Apps for Business offers a thirty-day free trial for you to evaluate the service. For those who created a free Google Apps Account before Google ceased offering it, conversion from the free Google Apps Account to the paid Google Apps for Business account is seamless.