Microsoft Office and Google Workspace (previously known as G Suite) are the primary two systems available for lawyers and law firms. While most lawyers are familiar with Microsoft Office, Google Workspace offers a competitive option that should not be overlooked.
If you and your firm use Office, below are the top five reasons you should pay more attention to Google Workspace. If you are already using Google Workspace, read on to learn about the features that you are missing out on.
I will be honest, I was reluctant to leave behind my physical calendar. However, once I saw that my Zoom meetings were automatically added to my Google Calendar (with the link) I could no longer resist.
The Basics: When you create a block in your Google calendar, you can label it as an event, out of office, task, reminder, or appointment slot. Use these to block off time in your day both so you are notified when meetings, tasks, or reminders are approaching and so that others trying to schedule time with you are aware of your schedule.
What you may not know: If you work in a team, next time you are trying to schedule a meeting with a coworker, try seeing your team's availability by using the “meet with…” function on the left-hand sidebar. This will overlay your coworker's calendar with yours so that you can find an agreeable time. No more messaging back and forth about when you can both meet.
Another manual ritual I used to enjoy was making and checking off my to-do list, but yet again, Google Workplace offered an appealing alternative.
The Basics: From your Gmail, you can click on the Task icon on the right-hand sidebar to create a personal to-do list. Calendar and Tasks are nicely integrated; you can add tasks to your calendar, which will appear on your list, or add tasks to your list, which will be added to your calendar.
What you may not know: More interesting to lawyers is the ability to create a task based on an email with the click of one button. When you get an email you need to act on, click the Task icon at the top of the email and it will immediately be added to your task list. Also interesting to law firms is the ability to assign tasks to team members from the Chat application. Go to the Chat application, create a space for your team, and assign tasks from there!
When choosing what to use, security is always the top priority for lawyers. Luckily, since rebranding, Google Workspace has enhanced its security features.
The Basics: Google Workspace operates 100% on the Cloud and encrypts all information, including emails, chats, and documents. Before Google Workspace, G Suite would scan emails for the purpose of ad targeting. They have now done away with this and made security a top-selling point. If you are already using Google Workspace, you can use this checklist to ensure it is as secure as possible for your practice.
If you are the admin of a Business Plus Plan, then you will also have access to Vault, which stores your firm's data, including emails, messages, and documents. Data stored in Vault can be protected from deletion even if someone in your organization deletes it from their account. On the other hand, if you need to delete data, you can remove it from all Google accounts in your organization. As the admin, you can assign permissions to other members to access aspects of Vault and access an audit log of everyone who accesses it.
A lesser-used Google communication tool is the Chat function, which is particularly useful for internal communication.
The Basics: Within your Gmail, chats will appear on the left-hand sidebar, keeping your inbox clean of unnecessary emails from colleagues while keeping all communication in one place. Like other messaging apps, you will be notified of new messages and have a searchable history.
What you may not know: The Chat application, both available as a web-based app or as a desktop app, is where you can create Spaces for yourself and your team. Within Spaces, you can assign your colleagues tasks, schedule video meetings, and share and create documents. Rather than leaving Chat to go to your doc, it will open within the app, where everyone can collaborate.
5) Google Docs
Microsoft Word is currently the go-to word processing platform for lawyers, and while Google Docs is similar, it may take some lawyers a little time to make the switch. Despite this, Google Docs offers a good option for lawyers, especially when work requires collaboration. If you are starting to use Google Docs more in your practice, here is what you should know.
The Basics: Google Docs is similar to any word processor you may have used in the past only it is cloud-based, meaning you can share it with team members and collaborate on the document in real-time. While working on the doc, you and your team members can leave suggested edits, comments and use the chat function for anything else.
What you may not know: Google Docs has many templates available for lawyers like contracts and invoices. However, if you cannot find the template you need, you can create your own and save it for future use. If you are doing legal research, you may also want to try the “explore” option. If you are referencing another case, person, or document, you can highlight it and use the explore option to easily cite web pages or insert links to other files in your drive.
Google Workspace is a hub for your team to collaborate, discuss, and schedule. It now offers the security features needed to be a viable choice for law firms, putting it in direct competition with Microsoft Word.
Let us know in the comments if you use any of these tools or have any other Google Workspace secrets to share.
By Maggie Piper, Client Services Manager
The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.