Lawyers "Going Google"
Recent years have seen a rapid increase in the number of traditionally old-fashioned law firms embracing new technology and “going Google”. Rather than hosting their own email servers, calendars and documents, they have moved to Google’s cloud-based tools, Google Apps.
There were initial concerns voiced about the security and confidentiality implications of storing sensitive client data within documents and emails and the ethical rights and wrongs of using the cloud for information storage but Google does offer many security features; SAS70 Type II certification and two-step verification – that gives users confidence. In fact, their data is probably safer in this facility than it would be if hosted on premise. Even so, the onus is still on the user to ensure that their account is as secure as is reasonable practicable and this can be achieved through the use of strong passwords and two-step account authentication processes.
Why Use Google Apps Cloud-Based Calendar and Gmail over Conventional Calendar and E-mail Software?
Cloud-based tools allow lawyers the freedom to access and manage information more efficiently from any location, not just in the office. Social applications are now creating a culture where the legal profession can be more easily connected with its clients and this constant communication helps to enhance client relationships through more efficient sharing.
From a practical perspective, Google Apps Calendar and Gmail offer many advantages over more conventional software.
Lawyers can access emails and calendars from any web-enabled device wherever they are, even in court. This makes keeping up to speed with case developments and client requirements a much more efficient process and means that decisions can be made in real time based on data received. Emails and calendar can be automatically synced across all devices, rather than entered manually which is a time-consuming and error prone process.
Google Apps also offers the facility to enable users to access Gmail and Calendar information even when they are not connected to the internet. To do so requires that the Chrome Web browser is used and that separate extensions are installed into the browser.
Gmail has greatly enhanced functionality too. Users can read and reply to messages stored on their computer including accessing attachments and writing totally new messages. The facility allows for the storage of up to ten weeks’ worth of messages. Just like Google’s web search capability, Gmail and Calendar benefit from the same powerful search and retrieval function which can greatly speed up searching for a message, event or attachment. Through the Advanced Search menu, users can search for keywords and phrases and utilise a number of useful filters. Cloud-based practice management software offers the facility to integrate messages and appointments from Gmail and Google Calendar.
There is also a cost saving implication as Google Apps accounts are cheaper annually than the Microsoft Office Home Business equivalent and there are no upgrade costs for new features and functionality which appears automatically. It may also be possible to reduce IT expenses as Google’s engineers maintain the servers that are responsible for handling mail.
Even the most traditional of legal firms can make good use of technological advancement even though some of the more mature members of the profession might require a little help from their younger counterparts in getting to grips with the modern digital way of practicing law.