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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 UndeniableRuth.com. In her Attorney at Work column “Nothing But the Ruth,” she writes about the lessons she’s learning while building her new virtual practice.