Looking to improve workplace collaboration & productivity within your law practice? Miles Hischier, of HiView Solutions, a Google Integration Partner, authored this article for Lawyer Meltdown to share insights about how law firms can use Google G Suite for work email, project collaboration, and document storage. Learn about G Suite and the popular features relevant to a law firm.
What is G Suite?
Google G Suite, sometimes called by its former name, ‘Google Apps for Work,’ is a collection of Google office productivity apps for business. The G Suite package includes:
- Professional email through Gmail (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Google Calendar
- Google Hangouts
- Google Drive
- Google Docs
. G Suite also includes administrative tools through the G Suite Admin Panel.
Google offers 3 plans: G Suite Basic ($5/user/month), G Suite Business ($10/user/month), and G Suite Enterprise ($25/user/month). This article focuses on G Suite Business, which is appropriate for law firms with fewer than 250 employees.
Google Doc Features that Lawyers Love
Suggesting Mode. Google Docs allows you to ‘track changes’ and provide specific feedback inline within a particular document. Suggestions appear in colored text and can be “accepted” or “rejected” by other editors.
Commenting. This feature can be utilized to provide metadata or commentary about a specific inline edit. Just like Microsoft word, comments are captured & labeled with the commentator’s name.
Version Control. Instead of manually versioning files by name & date, Google automatically saves all edits. At any time, you can review the entire version history of a document and identify who made the last change and what specifically was changed.
Interoperability with MS Word. Google Docs can be downloaded into MS Word Docs. Google Doc Suggestions & Comments will also transfer into the Word doc as well.
Google Drive for Document Storage
With G Suite Business, you get unlimited storage (with 5+ users) and Team Drives, which enables law firm ownership of files/folders instead of Drive file ownership at the employee level.
Team Drives. Team Drives can be a useful complement to your case management system. For instance, you can add multiple Team Drives, organized by client name or by case, and then archive Team Drives over time. With unlimited storage & Google Vault for data retention (see below), you’ll have an easy search panel to cull through old files down the road if needed.
Work with MS Office Files through Filestream. Filestream was created so you can easily work in MS Office from your local computer and save new versions to your Google Drive account. Filestream is a Dropbox-like sync client that connects to your G Suite account and automatically uploads a new version of your MS Office Document to G Suite. You only need to select the Filestream folder through Finder on Mac or Explorer on Windows.
Protect Firm Data through the G Suite Admin Panel
Mobile Device Management. If you have employees accessing work data on their own mobile devices, you can use Google’s built-in mobile device management service to enforce a device passcode, helping ensure that a lost iPhone doesn’t compromise your firm’s information. Further, admins can configure ‘account wipe’ which enables you to remove all firm data from the mobile phone without deleting the employee’s personal data, like photos.
Drive Sharing Controls. Since law firms handle sensitive information, we recommend that you disable external link sharing. This means that links can be shared internally, or with clients/partner organizations that have been whitelisted through the G Suite Admin Console. If someone outside of this protected realm needs to access a document, they can still be added directly to a file as “contributor,” but will need a Google Account to access the file.
This can happen 1 of 3 ways:
- Their company has G Suite
- The account shared with is a @gmail account, or
- They’ve created a free Google Account with their work email address at accounts.google.com
This way, you always know who your information is being shared with. With external link sharing enabled, anyone with the link can open that file.
Security Controls. From 2-factor authentication to usage reports, there’s a range of security control options that administrators can enable through the Admin Console to ensure G Suite is secure. Read more about G Suite Security here.
Google Vault (eDiscovery & Retention). Google Vault enables law firms to archive historical mail, chat, and group history. Google Drive Files can be archived as well. Firms can enable a default retention rule, such as “save indefinitely” to retain information. Google Vault can also be used for Legal Holds, Search, and Exporting data. Audit reports are also available to show actions taken by Vault users.
Google Meet for video/audio conferencing with clients
Google Meet is a scalable and stable audio/video solution. Google Meet offers a way to join via URL from a computer, as well as a unique dial-in number & meeting PIN. This way, you can present yourself on camera to your clients or colleagues in another location and review documents together. Sometimes, it might be useful to simultaneously share a Google Doc so you can collaborate in real time on the call as well. G Suite Enterprise is quite a step up in price but includes the option of recording calls if you desire that functionality.
G Suite = A new way of working
G suite offers law firms a collaborative set of tools that provides alternative workflows to the traditional Outlook/MS Word combo that many law firms rely on today. Plus, as you bring younger lawyers into your practice, there’s a strong chance they’re well versed in this set of tools already. Google offers a very similar toolset in their G Suite for Education package, and younger employees (most people under age 35) bring Google Apps knowledge with them to the office.
For employees less familiar with Google products, a quality Change Management engagement with a Google Partner like HiView Solutions can help you convert even the most stubborn employees over to new ways of working. To learn more about G Suite, visit gsuite.google.com.