Google Drive for Lawyers

google drive for lawyers

Google Drive for Lawyers – What You Need to Know.

Considering Google Drive to Save Money for Your Law Firm? Not So Fast

Google Drive is a cloud based document and file storage system provided by Google. As the undisputed leader of the Internet, it’s easy to see why a law firm would consider using it for file storage and sharing. With free and paid accounts, Google Drive provides not just ample space, but it also provides people with the ability to collaborate with others and share files. What about Google Drive for Lawyers?

Is Google Drive Appropriate for Law Firm Use?

Like many cloud options for storing files, sharing files, and collaboration, one of the biggest selling points is cost. Through GSuite, law firms can receive 30 gigs of storage for $5 per user per month. Law firms can get unlimited cloud storage or 1 terabyte per user if the firm has less than five users for $10 per user per month. There’s a $25 per user per month plan, but if your firm has less than five users, each person would only get 1 terabyte of space. It does, of course, have other features that we will touch on soon.

When it comes to Google Drive for Lawyers, the real question is whether Google Drive, at any price level, is appropriate for law firm use. While all account levels provide users with shared calendars, access to Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Google drive does not have the security, matter-centricity or robust document management functionality that most law firms require.

Examining Security

Data Security in Consumer-grade Cloud Storage

As a law firm, you’re dealing with sensitive client information, an important factor when evaluating Google Drive for Lawyers. Family law or bankruptcy law firms may have tax records, social security numbers, and other important information. Personal injury and med mal firms could have medical records, authorizations, and social security numbers. Ask yourself this: if you were a client, would you want your confidential information stored on a cloud that, while good, is not necessarily meant to store confidential information?

Consider this: how many people do you know who have and use their Google Drive account? Anyone who has a Gmail account (or who uses GSuite) has a Google Drive account. That’s standard knowledge and it could be the first place hackers will likely try to go to login and obtain your data or hold it hostage. At its basic level, all it takes is figuring out a user’s login email and password.

It’s important to keep in mind that Google Drive for Lawyers isn’t just about security. It’s about making a cost-effective decision for your law firm while adhering to ethics surrounding cloud-based document sharing and storage.

Examining Ethical Obligations

Lawyers are special, and so is their data.

In recent legal ethics opinions, the general consensus is that lawyers should use the standard of reasonable care. In some states, like California, lawyers are advised to weigh the data’s sensitivity and what could happen to the client if the information were inadvertently accessed. The State of Alabama expects lawyers to stay on top of best practices to safeguard sensitive client information. Florida states that lawyers must make reasonable attempts to guard against potential attempts of a breach of data.

Examining Matter-Centricity

An Organizational Nightmare in the Making

When evaluating cloud document storage solutions, such as Google Drive for Lawyers , it’s also important to think about organization. As helpful as Google Drive can be to help lawyers access files when they’re out of the office (and for lawyers who have a virtual office), it can get messy…fast. Without predetermined guidelines on how files should be organized, law firms that rely on Google Drive can end up with a giant problem. Considerations for organization include how client files will be stored (by last name, by case number, or by some other indicator), how documents should be named, whether documents should be downloaded to hard drives, when all files should be uploaded to the drive, and who will ultimately be responsible for the organizational side of using the system.

Examining Collaboration

Collaboration Conundrum

Although programs like Google Drive have a great feature that allows people to work together on projects. It seems like a great idea, but for law firms, it can cause a problem. Often, workers will download files to work on them instead of working on them from the cloud. Workers may feel that downloading the file to work on it is better for various reasons; the main reason is an unstable Internet connection. The problem? They may not immediately upload their changes or they may upload the file with a new name. This can cause confusion for the other law firm employees who may need the file. They may not have the most updated version or you could end up with multiple versions and be unsure which one is the one that should be used. A significant factor when considering Google Drive for Lawyers.

Examining Document Management Tools

Beyond basic storage.

Finally, consider the actual tools most law firms need to manage documents. Services like Google Drive (and similar services) give you basic storage: a place to make folders and store files—nothing more, nothing less.

Most law firms we work with require more than that. They need the ability to tag, categorize and comment on documents. They need to review old versions, and track version histories. They need robust search and OCR capabilities. They need the ability to check documents out, and back in when they’re done working on them. They also need the ability to store and manage emails alongside documents. Tools just not available in basic cloud storage, and something to seriously determine if your team needs when considering Google Drive for Lawyers.

Related: 5 Reasons You Need Law Firm Email Management.

Semantics aside, its important to understand that Google Drive is not a Document Management System (DMS), and therefor lacks this sophisticated set of tools.

The Uptime Verdict

While your law firm could benefit from a quick and easy place to upload and store files, Google Drive for lawyers can cause serious issues when it comes to the precise level of document management needed in the legal industry. Between ethics and organization, Google Drive shouldn’t be your law firm’s go-to answer for cloud-based collaboration and storage.

If you’re looking for a document management solution made with law firms in mind, look for the following traits:

  • Document storage and management that is arranged by matter.
  • Easy to use email management options.
  • Integrates into Microsoft Office so that you can save your documents directly to the cloud.
  • The ability to index and search the names and the content of every single document and email.
  • The ability to compare older documents to its newer counterparts.
  • The ability for law firm employees to check-in and check-out documents to ensure that everyone is working with the most updated documents and to eliminate confusion.
  • Create a system for document profiling and tagging as well as choose favorite documents.
  • Notifications when specific documents are changed or updated.

Law firms have specific needs. When it comes to document management and collaboration, choose a product designed to meet those needs.

Epilogue: Legal Document Management in the Cloud

Looking for a cloud-based, matter-centric way to manage documents for your firm and your cases? Need one system to manage matters, documents and email? Take a look at LexWorkplace.

Learn More