In November, 2003, I wrote an article on Google Search Tips and although most of the tips will still work, Google has turned into much more than a search engine. Although world domination may not be their actual mission they clearly do more than just have a search engine. It is interesting to note that that according to their website,”Google’s mission is to organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” I recommend that you actually read their Ten Principles. They are quite interesting.
So, it is now time to revisit Google and give some tips on how lawyers should be using Google and all of its manifestations. These tips do not cover everything that Google does nor can they easily be shown in print.
GETTING TO FREE
In order to use many of these free services/apps, you must create an account in Google. This will allow you to use the apps/services listed in this article. I will admit that I was reluctant to get a Gmail account but it has proved helpful. It also allowed me to use Google Docs. You can create more that one account. You can create one for nothing but “spam”- vendors/merchants who force you to provide an email address. You can also create a “business” GMAIL, which you can use for very specific reasons.
Google Apps are web-based tools designed to allow you to create, share and store documents online. It is designed to give people the opportunity to collaborate via the internet. It also allows you to create documents and save them from anywhere. You can access many of these for free but there are fee based. These are cloud based software solutions and can be used by small businesses. These Google Apps include e-mail (GMail), word processing (Google Docs), spreadsheets and presentations.
You can create documents and share them with staff, clients and/or co-counsel. And storing them online (in the cloud) eliminates the need to send an attachment. It also offers the ability to create quick and easy forms which you can use from anywhere. You can either create new documents right in Google Docs or you can upload documents from your desktop that you may want to share with others or work on away from your office. The advantage to using Google Docs when either sharing with others or working from various locations is that it also makes it easier to know which “version” is being used since document changes are done and there is still only one document which others can view and edit.
Although some solos may want to use these Google Apps as their “Office Suite,” this would not be my recommendation for most practitioners at this time. If you are serious about using Google Apps as your office suite, then you absolutely must use their business service and not their free service for running your practice. If you are a NEW solo practitioner and plan to run your practice from your laptop or mobile device, the Google Apps may be an option.
Gmail is the service that most people know. You can register for a free Gmail Account which allows you to check your email anywhere you have an internet connection. If you already have an email account you can still use GMAIL. Google provides excellent help on how to get your messages if you have other email addresses or use Outlook.
I especially like GMAIL for listservs and other places I give out my email but am not concerned about getting spam. In fact you can create a number of GMAIL accounts for a variety of reasons. If you have a large case, you might actually want to create a GMAIL account you can access from everywhere.
If you do not have a case management program, using Google Calendar could be a help to keep your calendar online for you and staff. It is a full featured appointment calendar and can sync with MS Outlook and Apple i-Cal
Although most solo and small firm practitioners may not need Google sites, this allows you to “use Google Sites to centralize documents, spreadsheets, presentations, videos, slideshows and more to help keep teams organized.
New! Build collaborative sites faster with templates for project workspaces, team sites, intranets and more.” This could be helpful if you are working with co-counsel or associates who are not in the office.
NOTE: Information for this section was helped by “Google Tools for Lawyers”, a presentation at the 2010 ABA Techshow by Dan Pinnington and Mark Rosch. If you would like a complete pdf of the presentation, please email Pat Yevics at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you a copy.
Have you ever “googled” yourself? If you have not, stop reading and do it now. Did your name come up near the top of the list? Did your name come up at all? When I googled my name, Patricia A. Yevics, there were 2150 listings and they were all mine. Okay, my name is VERY rare. I am the only one with it. However, all of my web listings were listed from my Google Profile (which I will talk about soon), Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter etc. Even when you search on Yevics, I am 5 of the 10 listings.
It is much easier to get high rankings when your name is extremely rare. If your name is not as rare as mine (there are only 9 people in the entire country with the name Yevics – and I know them all), it is even more important that you create a Google and web presence. The first place to start is with Google Profiles.
When you are finished reading this article,go to Google Profiles and create a profile so that when people search on your name in Google, they are certain it is YOU. This is for your practice. Keep personal information to a minimum. The key, especially if you have a fairly common name, is to let people know they have the right person. You can view my profile at Pat Yevics.
This can be a great service to keep you up to date on specific topics including your own name. Go to Google Alerts and you can tell Google to send you information on very specific topics including your name, other law firms, topics specific to a case or any other up to date information. You do not want to have too broad a list because you will be overwhelmed. This can be extremely helpful for specific cases for a short amount of time.
Another way to get your name out there and take advantage of the internet is to have a blog. Google has Blogger. It is easy to get started and if you think you can put information on the web about your practice that can help potential clients (and current clients) then you should consider this. The best part it is free. You can get more information at www.blogger.com. There are helpful tips and videos on how to get started.
Have you ever put a business or name into Google and a map comes up with a location? When potential clients put your name into Google, does your firm show up? If not, you need to sign up at Google Places ( and Yelp and Yahoo) so potential clients and referral sources can find you. It is really easy and free.
These are just some of the ways practitioners can use Google. Again, there are tips on searching on Google at the LOMA Website and the article will be under Tech Stuff Articles There will also be a presentation on this article on the MSBA website listed earlier in this article.