Using Google Voice in Your Law Practice

The February issue of Multnomah Lawyer, the official publication of the Multnomah Bar Association, has an excellent article by Charley Gee about using Google Voice.

As Charley describes:

Google Voice is a service from Google that provides a user with a telephone number, voicemail, conference calling, and text messaging service. It is accessible from any computer with access to the Internet, or from a cellphone or tablet.

The best feature of Google Voice is its price: free. Using your Google account, just sign up, select the number you want from a list of available numbers, and verify and connect your cell phone to the account.

Google Voice supports call routing, text message archiving, and voicemail to e-mail transcription.  (But not emergency service calls.)  If traveling, you can access voicemails and make calls without cell service:

Google Voice users can make and receive calls and text messages, as well as fetch their voicemail, over the internet instead of a cell tower signal. I’ve accessed my voicemail and text messages from remote locations around the state just by finding a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Great tip Charley!  My only caveat is to keep security risks in mind when using Wi-Fi.

If you are evaluating Google Voice vs. Skype, read this post.  For more thoughts on the benefits of using Google Voice in your law practice, check out what Go Matters has to say.

If you’ve committed to Google Voice and want to know about using it on your Android Phone or iPad, see:

How to Use Google Voice for Your Primary Android Phone Number and Messages or App Review: Google Voice for iPad.

Final Thoughts

I blogged earlier this month about how to cope with Gmail outagesGoogle Voice is tied to your Gmail account.  If Gmail goes down, Google Voice may also experience an outage.  Without a doubt, you will lose WiFi functionality, voicemail to e-mail transcription, and perhaps other features.  A cursory search did not return an answer to the question: How many times has Google Voice experienced an outage?  However, searching for “Google Voice outage” returns numerous results dating back the last few years.  Whether Google’s uptime stats are better or worse than the competition is hard to gauge.

Finally, I can’t write a post about Google Voice without expressing how much I like Ruby Receptionists, our very own home-grown virtual reception service based in Oregon.  Ruby Receptionists goes far above and beyond Google Voice, with the advantage of personalized, live reception services.  Read about this awesome service for lawyers here.  For another take, see this post.

All Rights Reserved [2014] Beverly Michaelis

Mobile Security Tips from the ABA

Great tips at Law Technology Today on mobile security. Don’t take confidential client data outside the office without taking these precautionary steps:

Encrypt devices
Password protect all technology (phones, tablets, laptops)
Enable remote wiping capability
Limit what you carry when outside the office
Mark your property and don’t leave it unattended
Consider computer locks for laptops
Use less conspicuous carrying cases

Read the full post.

The Best of TECHSHOW – Tablet and Smartphone Apps

This is another post from my “best of” ABA TECHSHOW series.  Today  – supercool apps for tablets and smartphones.

Build a Visual Timeline

BeeDocs  – This app turns a dull timeline into an engaging 3D/multimedia presentation.  Chart dates, times, amounts, distances, prices, quantities – just about anything – in a visually appealing format to help clients (or jurors) better understand historical events.  Publish to the Web, create presentations, or add a visual timeline to a PDF.

Settlement Apps

Picture It Settled – Helps parties evaluate cases with probabilistic scenarios.  Draws on historically successful negotiating rounds to help users plot successful negotiation moves.  Uses the Settlement Prophet™ application to project when the parties are likely to settle and the amount of the settlement.

Scanning on the Go

Genius Scan, Scanner Pro, Text Grabber – Scan, crop, straighten, organize, and share images or documents quickly and easily by e-mail or through cloud services like Dropbox and Evernote.

158_iPhone_img3World Card – Capture business cards and sort them automatically by name, company, position, address, phone number, e-mail address and other fields.  Exports to address book – no more entering information manually.

Office Suite Productivity

OfficeSuite Pro 7 (Android only) and QuickOfficePro (Android and iOS) – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF for mobile users.

CloudOn – The full power of applications like Microsoft Office®, the convenience of cloud storage and more—all in your very own workspace in the cloud. Best mobile app for redlining/tracked changes.

iPadObjectTimekeeping

iTimeKeep – Enter time from anywhere, securely access matters back at the office, apply billing codes to time entries, run spell check.  Free trial version available from the App store.

Presentation Apps

Haiku Deck and SlideShark – Solid choices for presentation apps. Haiku Deck impresses with amazing images.  SlideShark is ideal for conversion of PowerPoint slides created on your desktop.

PDF and File Management Appsgr-icon-96

PDF Expert – Simple PDF conversion and markup. Integrates with Dropbox.  Easy to use signature feature, compatible with fillable forms.  Goodreader – The “Swiss Army Knife” of PDF readers with the ability to replicate desktop file management and structures.

Notetaking on the Fly

OneNote Mobile (free for up to 500 notes), Notability (syncs with Dropbox), Penultimate (syncs with Evernote), and Noteshelf (file notes into different books, download templates and themes including planners, grid paper, stationery, and more.)

Security Apps

1PasswordPro – 1Password will securely store your important information and automatically log you in to Web sites with a single tap.  No need to remember your username, password, or even the Web site address.

Lookout – Virus protection, backup, and location of your missing device.

Thanks to

Tom Mighell, James Province, Jeffrey Taylor, Ben Schorr, Dan Pinnington, and
Mark I. Unger for all the great apps!

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis – 2013

Smartphone Email Signatures

Does your standard e-mail signature include a disclaimer?  Perhaps the IRS Circular 230 Disclosure:

To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.

Or maybe yours seeks to protect confidentiality and the attorney-client privilege:

This message may contain sensitive and private privileged information.  If you are not the intended recipient, or if you believe you have received this message in error, please notify me immediately by reply e-mail.  Please keep the contents confidential and delete the message and any attachments from your system.

Whether such disclaimers work is a debate for another day.  For the purpose of today’s post, let’s assume they do and you want to include a disclaimer in your e-mail signature.  Easy enough – when you are working on your desktop or laptop – but long e-mail signatures are not supported by mobile devices like the iPhone.  What can users do?

One option is to post the e-mail communication policy/disclaimer on your firm’s Web site.  If your device will support a signature that contains an outside link, problem solved.  Here is an example:

This can be done on the iPhone using an app like the Signature Creator Tool that supports HTML signatures with URLs.

If that sounds like too much work, another choice would be to include appropriate disclaimers in the client’s initial fee agreement so the client understands up front that all communication by e-mail is subject to the conditions contained in the initial disclaimer.  In that case, if an attorney preferred, his or her mobile e-mail signature could look like this:

 

If you are beyond the initial fee agreement stage and don’t want to hassle with special apps that support HTML signatures with URLs, then do a mass paper mailing or mass e-mail to all clients including a copy of the firm’s disclaimer and e-mail communication policy.  Explain to clients that your policies and disclaimer apply to all messages, whether sent by tablet, smartphone, desktop, laptop, or some future means yet to be invented.  If you are particularly concerned, ask clients to acknowledge and consent to your terms.  This can be done by signing and returning the policy/disclaimer or by replying to your e-mail blast.  (If you send a group or broadcast e-mail to all clients, be sure to put addresses in the bcc: field).

Copyright 2012 Beverly Michaelis

Flee from Microsoft’s “Click-to-Run”

So you’ve seen the engaging articles about Microsoft Office 2010 “Click-to Run” and you’re interested.  Why wouldn’t you be?  Microsoft touts:

  • Click-to-Run is fast, letting you download and use Office in minutes.
  • People using Click-to-Run get product updates automatically, with no need to download or install patches.
  • Click-to-Run makes trying Office 2010 easy – it can be used side-by-side with your current version of Office.
  • Click-to-Run products take up about half the disk space of normal products.

But before you run Office in a virtual space on a virtual drive you will never be able to access, please listen to these words of wisdom:

Microsoft Outlook “Click-to-Run” will not, under any circumstances, sync with your smartphone.

I learned this the hard way because I failed to discover the known issues beforehand.  I implore you to learn from my mistake.

For several months I blamed Apple for my iPhone’s inability to sync.  In my defense, I found many references on Apple’s support page and in online forums describing problems with sync services.  I assumed the issue was on Apple’s end and I am not alone.  (Just Google “iPhone will not sync with Outlook 2010” – there are countless posts by frustrated users.)

Working with Apple support, I attempted uninstalling and reinstalling iTunes and related Apple software.  We also “repaired” Microsoft Office 2010 in the Windows 7 control panel.  Apple support techs were perplexed and never once suspected that Office was the culprit.  After all, my iPhone synced seamlessly with earlier versions of Outlook (2007 and 2003).

So How Did I Figure Out Microsoft “Click-to-Run” Was the Problem?

After upgrading to an iPhone 4s (I was holding out for the 5, then finally let go of that dream), I ran across Slipstick’s blog post and had an “a-ha!” moment.  Slipstick’s solution is to ditch “Click-to-Run” and install the regular version of Office 2010, which I did.  My phone now syncs like a dream and I once again have my current Calendar, Tasks, Contacts, and Notes on my iPhone.   Side note: I love my 4s and wish I had upgraded sooner.

Other Reasons to Avoid “Click-to-Run” Like the Plague

  • Do you like to see “Not Responding?”  Well, get used to it if you use “Click-to-Run.”  Happens all the time.  (I guess as a user that I’m faster than Microsoft’s virtual space and virtual drive.)
  • Take this caution from Microsoft seriously:  “Many add-ins might not function as expected when used with Click-to-Run. You might see error messages stating that an add-in failed to load or could not be found.”  Among the non-functioning AddIns?  Acrobat PDFMaker.
  • Third-party solutions like CompanionLink won’t solve syncing issues.  This is a great little app from my home town, but it doesn’t work with “Click-to-Run.”

Final Thoughts

Now that I’m fully informed in the premises, I don’t see myself using virtual space/virtual drive applications again.

Copyright 2012 Beverly Michaelis