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Legal Tech: Gmail, Yahoo or your own email?

By Peter LaSorsa This article is probably best addressed to solo practitioners or those with just a few attorneys. I will say upfront that my email address is pmllaw@yahoo.com and has been since the beginning of my law firm. When first starting out my goal was to run lean and mean. Keeping costs low and not spending where spending isn’t required best accomplish this. One area where spending can get high is on technology and especially on computers and computer systems. You have a few options when choosing an email account. The first option is a free account from Google, Yahoo or Hotmail where the email is hosted on their servers and all that is required is to log in and send and receive email.  Another option is to purchase your own email server and host your own email system, using say Microsoft Outlook. Lets take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each. The advantage of the host your own option is you can have a more professional email (that is what I hear other attorneys say often about email addresses like jsmith@xyzlawfirm.com as opposed to jsmith@gmail.com). There are other advantages of using Microsoft Outlook as it relates to other legal software you may have. For example, your other software may allow you to integrate your emails into a document retention feature. The disadvantage to having your own email server is the purchase price, maintenance and fact that someone has to be responsible for its operation. You can outsource this but again it just increases the cost.  What happens if you are on vacation for a week and your email server goes down? Perhaps the power is lost for an hour or two in your area. How will you retrieve your email when you are in another state and your server is down? All things you need to address if you decide to host your own email. Utilizing Gmail or Yahoo mail is a cost effective alternative and in my opinion a superior alternative. First, there is no cost upfront, no cost in maintenance, and no cost in support. In fact there is never a cost — period.  Second, the email is never down—never (OK someone will write a comment about their Yahoo mail being down for 3 seconds two years ago, but let’s be serious, Gmail and Yahoo mail are never down and are always accessible). You can go on vacation and access your email from anywhere at anytime and never have to worry that there will be a problem. I can sync up my Yahoo Calendar with my Blackberry and always have my up-to-date calendar handy. So why would any business spend money on an item that they can get for free?  Think about it, what does your email provide that Gmail and Yahoo don’t?  What functions do they have; does it arrive faster; is it more secure?  The answer is no.  It’s purely for aesthetic purposes. It’s the same theory utilized by those big law firms in downtown Chicago that have two-story foyers with marble and exotic wood and floor to ceiling windows with views of Lake Michigan. They want to show they are successful and have money to burn. Of course my view is it just shows they are over-priced, would rather spend money on aesthetics than keep costs down, and the person hiring them is paying for it. I have never had a client walk away from hiring me because I utilize Yahoo (maybe someone didn’t hire me because of it and I never knew of it — but I doubt it).  The fact is most people utilize Yahoo and Gmail and don’t have their own personal email server and don’t see any difference. The average person is looking for an attorney to provide competent legal service at the best price possible—and these days price is king.  Spending money on things that are free only increases your cost and increases the cost to your client or cuts into your profit if you don’t wish to pass that cost on to the client.  For my money, or actually for free, I recommend Gmail or Yahoo mail. Peter LaSorsa can be reached at lasorsalaw.com. He also publishes a blog at www.illinoissexualharassmentattorneyblog.com
Posted on October 14, 2010 by Chris Bonjean
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