Gmail logoThis is the next post in my series on why you should be using Google’s G Suite package in place of Microsoft Office. My last article discussed why lawyers should replace Outlook with Gmail when it comes to your email, calendaring, and contact management. Given that attorneys tend to be technologically challenged, the fact that Gmail is much easier to use should seal the deal by itself. Add in the fact that you’ll get improved functionality, a perfect mobile experience, along with having a universal work experience from anywhere and you have plenty of reasons to make the switch. Oh, by the way, switching to Gmail will mean fewer calls to the IT guy and more money in your wallet. If you’re currently using Outlook then you need to migrate your data into Gmail. This article will address how to do so.

If you’re just starting up your firm then use G Suite as your software platform. If however, you’re already up and running and using Outlook, then this article is for you. Let’s look at getting your emails imported into Gmail, along with your contacts, and calendar. Then let’s take a look at some features to enable in Gmail so it becomes a truly kick-ass productivity platform.

If your IT guy tries to tell you that it’s hard to get your data out of Outlook, and into Gmail, then you may want to look at him or her to see if their nose is growing with such a statement. While maintaining local systems, such as Outlook, is good for the job security, the bottom line is that Google provides tools for making this migration easy. All they need to do is set your email settings up so that your new messages route into Gmail. Once that is done they simply need to run Google’s “Google Apps Migration For Microsoft Outlook” tool. This tool is free from the big G and can be downloaded here. Once they run this tool your old emails, calendar entries, contacts, etc. will all be in Gmail. Pretty damn simple.

Let’s look at some email features to enable once all of your data is in Gmail:

  • Priority Inbox – My last post discussed how to use Gmail’s “priority inbox” feature to make sure that you see your most important messages first. From inside your Gmail account, click the gear icon in the upper right. This will take you to your settings. From there click the “inbox” tab and next to “inbox type” select “priority inbox.” Then save the settings.
  • Turning off nested conversations – Some people like the way Gmail and other email programs group emails into a conversation string. Many, like myself, can’t frickin’ stand it. If you want to turn this feature off in Gmail then, in your settings, click the “general” tab. You’ll find an option for “conversation view.” Turn this off, save your changes and then your emails won’t show in grouped conversations (if this is your preference).
  • Setting up auto signatures – This option is also under the “general” tab in your mail settings.
  • Adding a preview pane for your email – Many people, myself included, like to view my email in a pane on the right side of the screen with the messages listed on the left side (which is what you’re used to in Outlook). To enable this feature click on the “labs” tab in your mail settings. Enable the “preview pane” option. Scroll down and hit save. You now have a preview pane.

One of the coolest features in G Suite is the fact that you can set up intra office chat inside of Gmail. This means you can chat with one or more of your co-workers without ever leaving your email screen. This comes in handy if you need to message your assistant without ringing her phone or to simply share a quick idea. For a great intra office messaging option go back into your labs setting. Enable “right side chat.” You’ll then have a chat pane in the right hand side of your email screen. Click the picture of yourself (or your first initial if you don’t have a Google+ profile) and enable Google Hangouts. You now have a great communication tool that allows for the type of communications for which many people use Slack or Microsoft Teams (admittedly not as robust). The beauty of using hangouts as your office’s quick chat tool is, again, it’s tightly integrated into your email and you don’t have to switch screens. You can also download the Hangouts app for iOS and Android so that you can receive and send chats on a mobile device.

The last thing you need to do is to set up your shared contacts. This will allow you to set up, and edit a contact, with any changes being reflected in the contacts of everyone else in the firm. Have your IT person set up CoContacts (formerly known as Ginza Contacts) which is an add on for G Suite. This will set up a shared contact folder which, again, is accessible to everyone and will automatically sync to your smart phone without you ever having to do anything. Any changes made to a contact will also be reflected.

One feature to make sure you leverage in Google contacts is the “notes” section within a contact. The usefulness of this section for attorneys is obvious. Say you have a client named Joe. Simply use the note section to track contact information for witnesses, opposing parties, etc. In other words, all of the contact information you need for Joe’s case can be stored on one easy to access screen.

Follow these steps and you’ve got an incredibly easy to use (which is important for attorneys) email platform with great functionality. You’ve also got a great calendar tool, intra office chat, and easy contact sharing. The biggest thing, again, is that you can kiss IT problems goodbye. These cloud solutions “just work” and you won’t be trying to make a million different software programs talk to each other. These changes can help your office to look like this:

Happy office people

and will keep people from looking like this:

Stressed office worker

Should attorneys make the switch to Gmail? Yep. Will it help them be more efficient? Yep. Does efficiency equal profitability? Yep.