The Friday Five: Practice Tools

Why Skype? Get Google Hangouts

By | Jul.20.12 | Daily Dispatch, Legal Technology, Social Media, Virtual Practice

Beginning today, Attorney at Work is introducing a monthly “practice tools” edition of our regular Friday Five—five great ways to use a new product (or five reasons you should or should not) … or five ways to squeeze more productivity out of familiar tools … you get the idea. Today, Ruth Carter—Arizona lawyer and our “Nothing But the Ruth” columnist—kicks it off with five neat ways to use Google+ Hangouts. 

Google+ is Google’s effort to create a social media community. It seems like a lot of people have a Google+ account but don’t really use it. There is, though, one aspect of Google+ that differentiates it from the other social media sites and it is Google Hangouts. It’s my favorite part of Google+ and it has become one of my favorite means of communication—and it won’t drive up your long-distance bill.

Five Ways to Use Google Hangouts in Your Law Practice

Google Hangouts is similar to Skype in that it’s a videoconferencing tool. With Skype, you have to pay if you want to talk to more than one person at a time, but in a Google Hangouts session, you can have up to 10 people. It has screenshare capabilities so you can share what’s on your screen with everyone else. You can set up a Hangout to be public or private where you only invite select individuals to participate. Hangouts are a fantastic way to talk with multiple people in multiple places without driving up your long-distance bill. It works anywhere that you have an Internet connection and a webcam with a microphone.

Here are my personal favorite five uses for Google Hangouts.

  1. Client calls. When I talk with my clients, I prefer to use video whenever possible. This way I can see my clients and get a wealth of information from their facial expression. It’s helpful to be able to share my screen with my clients so I can show them documents and demonstratives, too. Also, when clients can see me, they can see that they are getting my undivided attention.
  2. Meetings and consultations. Meetings over Google Hangout are awesome! Nobody has to take extra time out of their day to drive to the meeting location. These are great for short meetings where the group only needs to meet for 30 minutes or less. Google Hangouts work best when only one person is talking at a time, so using this makes everyone wait their turn to speak, which is more effective than people trying to talk over each other. Google Hangouts are perfect whether you want to have a consultation with people who live across the country or on the other side of the planet.
  3. Office hours. Remember professor office hours in college? It was time that the professors set aside to be in their office and you could come by to chat about whatever you wanted. I think it would be awesome if lawyers had weekly or monthly office hours where they set up a public Google Hangout where anyone could pop by. This could be a great way to network with other lawyers, and it would give potential clients a no-pressure environment to meet you. You would have to remind all of your guests that there’s no expectation of confidentiality in a public Hangout, of course, and that being in a Hangout does not create an attorney-client relationship between anyone.
  4. Webinars. Google Hangouts have a great feature called On-Air that allows others to view your Hangout without being in the Hangout. This is a wonderful way to run a webinar. Your audience can see you and you can use screenshare to show slides or other images. You can have a webinar where you interview someone who is not in the room with you and your audience can watch. This is a great alternative to webinars where the audience can only hear you but not see you.
  5. Weekly video shows. On-Air Google Hangouts can also be used to create a weekly show. This is a video alternative to podcasting. You could do your show live using Google Hangouts, and then those who want to can watch it live, and those who couldn’t watch it live, or who want to watch it again, can watch video of the show on YouTube. I have yet to see a legal show that is made using Google Hangouts, but I’ve had the pleasure of being a guest on two different shows that use Google Hangouts: Indie Authors and Books and Beer. There are definitely opportunities for someone who wants to create their own show using Google Hangouts.
A Few More Tips for Hanging Out

Add Google Hangouts to your toolbox as another means for communicating with clients and colleagues. Here are a few tips for smooth and professional use.

  • It’s better if you’re wearing headphones.
  • Make sure you have a decent webcam and microphone.
  • If you’re doing a webinar or a meeting where there are more than two people present, it’s best to mute yourself when you’re not speaking so any ambient noise in your location does not create a distraction.
  • Be mindful of where you are when you’re using Google Hangouts and whether your Hangout is public or private—be thoughtful so you don’t violate your state’s ethics rules regarding confidentiality.

Ruth Carter is a lawyer, writer and speaker. Her virtual practice, The Carter Law Firm, focuses on intellectual property, social media, First Amendment and flash mob law. Ruth is a 2011 graduate of Arizona State University College of Law, known for her daring antics and outgoing personality, and co-founder of Improv Arizona. She also blogs weekly at In her Attorney at Work column “Nothing But the Ruth,” she writes about the lessons she’s learning while building her new virtual practice.

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5 Responses to “Why Skype? Get Google Hangouts”

  1. Jim McGee
    12 November 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    Interesting piece, and well written! I’m definitely going to read future work by Ms. Carter. My question is to what extent Google hangouts are confidential and encrypted, or can be made secure without great expense.

    The last bullet touches on, but does not address, the inherent risks. When you next address this topic, I’d like to see an article that unpacks the last bullet point, and at least provides links to relevant technical information. Given the advent of products that claim to provide end-to-end encryption for mobile phone conversations, there are likely to be near-tern solutions.

    Best regards

  2. Ruth Carter
    27 November 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    Thanks for your comment Jim. A private Hangout is limited only to the people you specify. When you have a public Hangout, anyone with a Google account can jump in.

    Are Hangouts more or less safe than talking on a telephone or via email? I don’t know for certain but I suspect the security is similar. You may want to ask your state’s ethics counsel if there are any rules that prohibit you from talking with clients via video conferencing.