Saving Gmail to PDF Using Zapier

Google Calendar in one hourAre you a Gmail user?  Many lawyers are.

Gmail and Google Calendar [sometimes coupled with Google Apps] is a popular alternative to Outlook.  But there is a key issue with using web-based email that lawyers often overlook: messages stored online simply don’t make it to your client file.  If you prefer web-based email and rebel against the idea of downloading messages to a local program on your desktop or laptop, how can you document your file?

This has been a challenge.  Until now.

The Bad Old Days: Saving Messages as Individual PDF Files

Gmail – as stand-alone web-based email – does not offer an easy way to capture a group of messages labeled or stored in a folder online.  If you want to save client emails, you must do so one at a time by printing each message to PDF (or scanning each message to PDF).  This is so incredibly tedious that most lawyers never do it.  Messages are saved online and nowhere else, resulting in non-cohesive client records.

Today’s solution: Zapier

Zapier is one way to solve this problem.  It automatically files Gmail by moving messages for you.  The only trick is the destination, which must be another web-based service or account.  Google Drive and Dropbox are two examples of locations where mail can be saved.  Here is a simple explanation of how the service works.

If you are paperless and storing your client records at one of the supported online destinations, then Zapier can make your client file cohesive.  Everything is in one location and your records are complete.  One of the most popular approaches is to use Zapier to save client email to Dropbox.

Parting Thoughts

“Zapping” your Gmail to the same online location where you keep your other client records seems like a good way to go.  As with any cloud-based solution, there are ethical concerns.

  1. Is Zapier secure?  Zapier stores the data it is moving on your behalf for 7 days, then purges it.  Your credentials are protected by bank-level encryption.  HTTPS or SSL connections are used whenever possible [If the destination app you are connecting to is not HTTPS or SSLZapier cannot “force” that type of connection.]  Users can monitor the task history of Zapier for the life of their accounts to verify activity and data transfer. Read more here.
  2. Is it a good idea to keep confidential and privileged client records in Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, or One Drive?  Yes, provided you supplement the built-in protection of your online accounts with a private [client side] encryption product like Viivo.  Problem solved.
  3. Won’t I just be safer if I store files on my own computer?  This is another way to go, but you’ll be stuck with the one-at-a-time process of saving email as described above.  Additionally, the tide of expert thought is shifting to the belief that cloud-based solutions are superior.  See The great IT myth: is cloud really less secure than on-premise?

 

All Rights Reserved [2016] Beverly Michaelis

Mac Users! Save Client Email in Five Easy Steps

If you follow this blog or read my articles in the Oregon State Bar Bulletin, you know I’m a big proponent of capturing email as part of the client file.

Read on if you believe, as I do, that email communications should be stored with the rest of your client documents to ensure a fully integrated, complete record of your work.

I Know You Love Gmail

Many lawyers are ardent users of Gmail. If you believe in saving email to your client file, this poses a problem.  Google doesn’t provide a tool to let users save multiple messages in one step.  You can print one message at a time to PDF or paper, but that’s about it.

Zapier

One workaround is to use Zapier, a web automation app.  [See my upcoming blog post on April 11.]

Outlook + Acrobat

Another approach [and my personal favorite] requires a combination of Outlook and Adobe Acrobat.  These two programs work together seamlessly, allowing the user to create searchable email portfolios that are automatically indexed and hyperlinked. When the Acrobat ribbon is installed in Outlook, you are only a few mouse clicks away from converting a single message, group of messages, or an entire folder of messages to PDF.  No need to worry about attachments, as these are automatically captured during the conversion process.  [Beware that Office 2016 requires an upgrade to Acrobat DC.]

What If Zapier, Outlook, or Acrobat Aren’t For You?

There are other options, but if you’re a Mac user, you’re in luck.  I can show you how to save client email in 5 simple steps without buying any new software.  All you need is the Mail App built into Mac OS.

Mac Users: Save Client Email in 5 Easy Steps

OK, I actually fibbed a bit.  First you need to set up your email account in Mail.  Macs are configured to help you automatically pull down email from Yahoo!, Gmail, and AOL, so this is very easy.  Your Web account stays intact.  All you’re doing is bringing your email messages into the Mail app.  Once you’ve set up Mail to pull messages down from your Web-based account, follow these five easy steps:

  1. Select the messages you wish to save [Use Command A to select all messages in a folder].
  2. Choose File, Save As.
  3. Verify the File Type is set to “RTF” [Rich Text Format].
  4. Verify that the box marked “Include Attachments” has a checkmark.
  5. Give the message string a name and save it to the desired location.

RTF [Rich Text Format] documents can be opened in Word, WordPerfect, Open Office, or any text utility [WordPad, NotePad].  This method will save your messages in a single thread which includes attachments.  The result is a searchable document that can be saved with all your other client documents.

Once the RTF file is created, you can delete the messages from Gmail, freeing up space.

Best Practices for Mac Users

IMHO, I would perform this maneuver as part of the file closing process.  Go ahead and leave messages in Gmail while your file is open.  When the work is complete, and your file is ready to close, make it part of your file closing ritual to “File, Save As” email messages to RTF.  Then delete the messages from Gmail.  This creates an integrated, complete client file.

Personally, I file as I go – an easy thing to do if you’re using Outlook+Acrobat, but I understand why lawyers prefer to leave emails in a folder while a file is open.  Many people find it easier to search email and use existing messages to send a new message. I get it.  My only caution:  If you do this, carefully review the original recipients of the message before you hit Reply All.  Clients, in particular, may have included someone else in an original email thread.  If you don’t notice this, and hit Reply All, you are sending confidential client communications to your client and someone else.

[All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2016]

[Note: no promises here that original attachment formatting will be preserved, but since most lawyers automatically save attachments as separate documents in the client file, I wouldn’t lose sleep over the fact that they aren’t perfect in appearance in your RTF email thread.]

The Best of 60 TechTips, Outlook Tricks, and Mobile Apps – 2016 ABA TECHSHOW

Every year, ABA TECHSHOW wraps with “60 Tips in 60 Minutes,” redubbed this year as “60 TechTips in 60 Minutes.” Along with that great presentation, the final day of the 2016 ABA TECHSHOW ended with a great review of mobile apps and Outlook tips and tricks. For a recap, click here or on the image below.

2016-03-19_12-29-25

Happy 30th Anniversary TECHSHOW!