Set Up Professional Email For Your Law Firm
by Willie Peacock of the Law Office of William C. Peacock
What’s tackier than wearing white ankle-high athletic socks with a black business suit? Using an MSN, Yahoo, Hotmail, or AOL email address. Even the more recent and trendy email providers, Outlook and Gmail, still look a bit tacky, don’t they?
Think about it. Which looks more professional: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org? If those look the same to you, just know that to many, it is similar to the difference between using a professional mailing address and a P.O. Box: one screams rookie startup that may not survive. The only bigger faux pas I’ve seen lately was someone using Comic Sans in her email signature.
How do you get an @yourlawfirm.com email address? There are a few ways, which vary in complexity and cost.
Ask Your Domain Name Registrar
The quickest way to get email @yourlawfirm.com is simply to ask the company that you used to register your domain name, or your hosting company, if they provide it — most do. For example, I use GoDaddy for domain name registration and for web hosting: email is yet another service they provide, if you need it.
The benefit is that it will likely be the easiest and quickest to set up. After all, your domain name registrar or host will gladly sell you another service and have a lot of incentive to help you get it set up. The drawbacks? Don’t expect great spam filtering — these companies don’t have the resources that the bigger companies do. Also, don’t expect a web browser interface that is as easy as Gmail or Outlook: most hosting providers will have an interface, but they are typically basic and dated. Instead, you’ll want to get the login information from your provider and input it in desktop Outlook and/or your smartphone’s email app.
Benefits: This is best if you are in a hurry, as it will probably take only a single phone call or click. Otherwise, consider the other options, as they are better in every other regard and may be the same price or even cheaper.
Zoho Mail (Robust Features, Free)
There was a time where Google and Microsoft provided free @yourlawfirm.com email services. That time has passed, however, so if your goal is as little office overhead as possible, your fate lies with Zoho, and Zoho alone.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing: their list of services, many of which are free, rival those of Microsoft and Google. For example, the company not only provides email, but also has online office programs (akin to Microsoft’s Word and Excel or Google’s Docs and Sheets), even in their free offering. I can’t personally testify as to the quality of Zoho’s offerings, as I have had a free legacy Google Apps account for years and have had no incentive to switch, but the geeky curiosity in me is calling, so I’m probably going to give them a shot in the near future.
The benefit here is obvious: free (for up to ten users) email accounts that are @yourlawfirm.com. They also have two mobile apps to access your email on the go (plus IMAP access if you want to use desktop Outlook or any Android or Apple mail app). The drawbacks include limited storage space (5 gigabytes, which to be fair, my seven-year-old, packrat of a Gmail inbox hasn’t even reached yet) and rate limits on how many messages you can send or receive a day (no mass-emailing to hundreds of people per day, but for regular office correspondence, it should suffice).
Google Apps (Robust Features, Integrates with Clio)
Google Apps is the go-to for many reasons: it has the best email in the business (Google Mail/Gmail), it has arguably the best collaborative online office suite (Google Docs, Sheets, Slides), and of course, it integrates with Clio. Clio can store your client documents in Google Drive and can sync your calendar with Google Calendar.
It’s seamless, it’s robust, and it costs money: $5/user/month (or $50/user/year) for the base package and $10/user/month (or $100/user/year) if you want unlimited storage and Vault features (automatic email archiving for eDiscovery or litigation hold purposes).
The benefits: it integrates with nearly everything, including Clio. Plus, Google is at the forefront of innovation (and tech startup acquisition), so you’ll rarely look at other companies’ offerings with envy. The drawbacks: it’s a pain to sync with older versions of desktop Outlook and … that’s about it, especially since they stopped scanning paid Apps users’ inboxes for advertising purposes.
Microsoft Office 365 (Robust Features, Familiarity)
Microsoft’s equivalent to Google Apps is tied in to its Office 365 offering. Their pricing is far more complicated, however, due to Office 365 coming in at least nine editions, including six meant for business, some of which come with desktop and mobile access to Microsoft’s ubiquitous Office suite, and some of which do not.
To keep things simple, we’ll look at the business offerings: email and Office Online is $5/user/month (or $60/user/year), while a bundle with the full Office desktop suite (which nearly every lawyer on earth uses) comes out to $15/user/month (or $150/user/year).
The benefits: if you’re buying Microsoft Office 365 anyway, this isn’t an additional expense. Microsoft’s Outlook Web Access is nearly as good as Google Mail, if not as good. And if, like the rest of the working world, you grew up using Microsoft Office, all of the online and offline versions of Microsoft Office and Outlook email will be very familiar — an invaluable consideration if your office has lawyer luddites lurking. The drawbacks include the convoluted pricing and credible arguments that the online version of Google’s office suite beats Microsoft’s.
Which to Pick? And How Do You Do It?
To tie it all up:
- Your domain name/hosting company is quick;
- Zoho is free for up to 10 users;
- Google Apps integrates with Clio and nearly every other startup service;
- Microsoft Office 365 is the service you (and the senior partner) know and love;
Pick whichever fits your needs best. All will come with instructions for linking the email provider to your domain, which typically involves copying and pasting a few servers into your domain registrar’s configuration page.
Be sure to read through the privacy policies of each provider to make sure it complies with your duty of confidentiality. The rules for this are much more nuanced than you might think. For example, New York allows lawyers to use email service providers that programatically scan confidential emails for advertising purposes. Your own jurisdiction may not be so permissive. If that’s the case, paid email services tend to have stronger privacy policies than free services.
Once you’re done, your emails will come from a personalized, professional address rather than a tacky free email account that looks like a spammer set it up to peddle enhancement pills.