-By Nerino J. Petro, Jr.
Petro is the Chief Information Officer for the 125 year old law firm of Holmstrom & Kennedy, P.C., in Rockford, Illinois where he is responsible for all in-house technology and training, recommending and implementing new technologies and providing direct support in the office and at trial.
Nerino served as the first Practice Management Advisor for the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Law Office Management Assistance Program for eight years helping members operate their offices more effectively and efficiently. Nerino has provided consulting to lawyers across the US on practice management and technology issues confronting since 1994 and he is a Certified Independent Consultant for a number of legal products.
Nerino is a regular contributor to local, state and national publications including the WI Lawyer, the Illinois Bar Journal, and ABA GP|Solo Magazine (where he serves as the Technology Editor) and was the ABA LPM Magazine Product Watch columnist from 2006 -2012. He presents throughout the US and Canada including ABA TECHSHOW, Pacific Legal Tech and state and national Solo and Small Firm conferences as well as other ABA, State and local conferences and events. He is a past ABA TECHSHOW Planning Board member and is a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin Solo & Small Firm Conference Planning Committees. Nerino was named to the inaugural Fastcase 50 list of the top legal techies in 2011. Nerino blogs at www.compujurist.com.
This post is adapted from the materials he prepared for “How to Add Google Voice to Your Communication Arsenal” to be presented at ABA TECHSHOW on Friday, April 18 3:45-4:45 PM.
Most of us have multiple phone numbers where clients, friends and others can try to reach us. Likewise, people that we deal with have the same thing. Think of the frustration you encounter when you try to contact someone and have to try multiple numbers, perhaps first their cell phone, then their office and for those that still have them, their home landline. Assuming a message is left, the person being contacted then has to access the voicemail service for that number and then try and respond. With this multitude of numbers and voicemails, trying to keep them all straight and checking them all regularly presents a challenge. But what if you could have one number that people could use to call, and by doing so, all of your phone numbers rang simultaneously? What if you were able to get all of your voicemails in a single location that also sent you an alert via your email and even text message? What if you could receive a transcription of these messages so you didn’t need to listen to them but could simply read them? What would you be willing to pay for this functionality and convenience? You can get all of these features and all for the whopping price of free using Google Voice.
What is Google Voice?
Google Voice is a telephony product that is designed to work in conjunction with your smartphone and provide not only incoming services (voice and text messaging) but outgoing calling as well. While Google Voice incorporates elements of Voice over Internet Protocol (“VoIP”), it is more than that: with its inclusion in Google Hangouts, Google Voice has become a well-rounded voice and communication service that can simply your life and communications with others. With Google Voice you can obtain a free U.S. telephone number from Google for your area (well, usually you can but not always) which allows you to make free calls in the US and Canada. You can also port your mobile phone number to Google Voice and use that instead.(Google information video on porting can be viewed at http://bit.ly/1C2L0WX and http://bit.ly/1C2LBYO. Written instructions from Google are at http://bit.ly/1C2LdJC. TechRepulic also has a good article on this at http://tek.io/1C2Ltsg.)
There are pros and cons to both options; since Google Voice is free and in light of other products that Google created and then cancelled in the past, Google Voice is always subject to being discontinued or changed by Google. For that reason, many people elect not to port their mobile number to Google Voice and instead obtain a new Google Voice number. Obtaining a new Google Voice number has the benefit of giving you a private number (i.e. your existing mobile number that you can provide to those close to you) and the new Google Voice number as your “public” number. This is what I have done. When used in conjunction with the powerful call filtering features of Google Voice, you can create a versatile system to screen your calls and manage your voice communications. The downside is that you have another number that you will have to deal with. David Gerwitz over at ZDNET.com put together a lengthy series of articles on his experience switching all of his numbers (personal and work, both mobile and landline) over to Google Voice in 2011 and updated it in 2014. The Ultimate Google Voice How-to Guide (2014 Edition) is the title of the compilation that Gerwitz penned; however, the only way to get all of the articles in one eBook is subscribing to the TechRepublic Tech Pro service for $299 per year. Since that is not an option for most people, I recommend that you simply go to Google Voice: A step-by-step primer on ditching your landline while keeping your number and then use the links in that article to read each piece on its own. This series of articles and how-to guides is mandatory reading in my opinion for anyone thinking about incorporating Google Voice into your communications article. (Unfortunately, not all of the articles are linked and you may have to search on the title of the next article that appears at the end of the one you are reading. To assist you with this task, I have put together a link list in the Appendix that should link to all of the articles in this series.)
Google Voice can be a great addition to your communications arsenal with its ability to simultaneously ring multiple numbers, messaging and integration with Google Hangouts. While there is no guarantee that Google will always support Google Voice or that Google Voice will remain free, the usefulness of Google Voice far outweighs these possibilities. Mitigating this risk even further is the fact that there are VoIP providers that will port your Google Voice number from Google Voice to their system such as Anveo when using an ObiHai device. (See http://bit.ly/1yYSxna and http://bit.ly/1yYSUOI for examples of low cost VoIP providers that also work with Google Voice and devices from ObiHai Technology devices http://www.obihai.com/ .) Details from Google on how to port your Google Voice number away from Google can be found at http://bit.ly/1yYRZO7 . Google does charge you a onetime fee of $3.00 to port Google Voice your number, but that is pretty inexpensive an amount to be able to move your Google Voice number.