Many small firm lawyers use the free Google email service Gmail to communicate with their clients. There are often questions raised about the security of Gmail because of the ads displayed that can change based on the content of your emails. So when you email several relatives seeing who is attending the cousin’s wedding, it is a little creepy to see ads displayed for wedding planners and similar services in your email. Based on the sheer volume of Gmails sent each hour, I accept Google’s statement that the ads are automatically generated and no one there is reading your emails to choose the ads displayed.

Lawyers using Gmail for business should strongly consider doing two things: 1. Upgrading your free Gmail account to the modestly priced GSuite subscription, and 2. Customizing Gmail so it works better for you.

A GSuite subscription costs $6.00 per month for the basic account and $12.00 per month for the business account. You can review this chart of the features of both types of accounts. There are many online essays, like this one, of why paid Gmail is better than free Gmail. There is more to GSuite than just email upgrades, but the primary reasons I think GSuite is superior to free Gmail are using a more professional-sounding email address (like your law firm website domain) instead of Gmail.com, administrative controls so a staff person cannot access their Gmail account after leaving your employment and the easy-to-use GSuite Sync for Microsoft Outlook.

Today Fast Company posted This next-level hack trains Gmail to work the way you think. This excellent article outlines how customizing Gmail tabs can change your inbox and your working days.

From the article:

“Here’s a little secret, though: You don’t have to use those tabs in the way Google designed them. You can hijack them and make them work any way you want.

“And once you wrap your mind around that possibility, you’ll never look at your inbox the same way again.”

Lawyers sometimes feel that they are too busy for technology customizations. But with most customizations, the hard part is figuring out what needs to be changed. Here Fast Company has provided you a roadmap.

As I have noted in this tip series previously, if your WiFi router has been in service for several years, it is likely time for a replacement. You may be using out of date security tools without knowing it. And in many cases a wireless router, particularly a mesh system, will improve your online experience.

PC Mag just today updated some shopping guides for you if you need a new WiFi router.

The Best Wireless Routers for 2020

The Best Budget Routers for 2020

Google Street View can be intrusive, especially if you had all your windows open when the Google recording vehicle drove by your house. Of course, other people were thrilled that Google Street View preserved them for posterity sitting on their front porch or working in their yard.

Before you decide to replace the image of your house with a blur on Google Street View, you should be aware that Google says this is “permanent.” So, if you are going to be placing your house on the market in the near future, this sounds like a poor idea. (I wonder if Google Street View Blurred will become a real estate sales required disclosure some day.)

But lawyers deal with many different types of people, including some who have had issues with stalkers and some who want to do everything possible to protect their privacy. So, if someone inquires, Mashable’s How to blur your house on Google Street View (and why you should) gives you all of the details on this apparently simple process. The image will still likely be on Zillow and other areas online, but this gets the image removed from where it will most likely be seen.

Caller ID was a great tool, at least it was, until the criminals learned to fake it. Google has an interesting new idea that is being rolled out to fight phone spam—verified calls.

“Google is slowly rolling out its new “Verified Calls” service, a kind-of supercharged Caller ID that should at least let Android users know whether the number that’s blowing up your phone is a legitimate business or not. As an added bonus, businesses using the service can even list a reason for calling, which will appear right on your phone’s screen,” according to this post on Lifehacker– Enable Google’s ‘Verified Calls’ on Android With This Setting.

The legal world was already changing before 2020. But all businesses and industries are now looking at all sorts of change driven by the events of 2020. Eight Tips to Thrive in the Evolving Legal Landscape was recently published in Law Technology Today.

This column was authored by Bethany Runyon of HighQ, a cloud-based secure file sharing and data services company. (In July 2019, Thomson Reuters announced their acquisition of HighQ.) The tips are from her team members. These tips are really directed to law firms rather than solo practitioners. I found this to be a very thoughtful and innovative piece that should be useful to many lawyers.

A web presence is now considered to be a business essential. For small law firms, a website is an increasingly important component of obtaining new business. It may not be that a website itself draws in lots of business. For many potential clients, looking for the lawyer’s website is a qualifier. Even more important is your bio and whether the potential client trusts your abilities as their lawyer.

Today I am recommending Gina Rubel’s 3 Keys to Crafting an Effective Professional Website Bio. Gina Rubel is the CEO of Furia Rubel Communications Inc. and is an expert in Public Relations. (Another fine offering from Attorney@Work)

Lawyers deal with confidential client information and we have a duty to secure that information. But it doesn’t matter who you are or how you use your technology. No one would want to donate, sell or give away a computer or phone without making certain your personal information is wiped. There is just too much information, like remembered passwords and saved text messages.

In the old days, I could confidently send lawyers off to Darik’s Boot and Nuke at https://dban.org/ after warning them to be cautious with whatever media they installed the tool on, lest they accidentally nuke something they didn’t intend to destroy. DBAN doesn’t work on SSD drives and they now sell a commercial product. Today we also have data on phone and other devices.

Today the respected tech website Wirecutter published an excellent guide How to Securely Wipe Your Computer, Phone, or Tablet. You may want to bookmark this guide so you will have it handy when you need it.

So, what about a dead computer? The quickest solution is to do an internet search to find instructions how to remove the hard drive from your model of computer and remove it before recycling or discarding the computer. Then you can physically destroy the hard drive. My son and I used lighter fluid to barbecue some old hard drives once and you can also let them soak in some caustic liquid for an extended period.

As we all understand, much of face-to-face oral communication is driven by non-verbal cues. How many times have you expressed something to someone and knew that they disagreed before the person said a single word? While we are doing much more communication via videoconferencing today, we can understand why veteran trial lawyers sometimes prefer face-to-face communication, particularly if the witness may be motivated to not be completely truthful.

Tips for Learning to Communicate in a Masked World is a short piece about learning to recognize some non-verbal cues from the unmasked part of the face. It is a three-minute read.

Lauren Stiller Rikleen, authored this piece. She is the founder and president of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership, which provides training, speaking, and consulting services to professional services entities, businesses, and organizations seeking to create an engaged, diverse, and inclusive workforce.