Virtual Law Office 104: Using Google Forms for Your Practice
Sick of transcribing paper intake forms into your computer after every consultation? Want a free, paperless, electronic option? Well Google Forms might be your new best friend.
The idea is simple: Create online forms, such as an intake form, that you can send to potential clients, embed in an email, or include on your website. Responses are added as they are received to a Google Spreadsheet, where you can manipulate the data or copy and paste it into other programs, such as your practice management suite or Outlook.
Nowhere is this a better fit than in online-only virtual law offices (VLOs): Your entire practice is online, so it's only right that your forms are as well.
Basic Use: Replacing Forms
Your intake form probably covers all the basics: name, address, what the legal issue is, etc. Creating a Google Forms version of your existing paperwork is easy: Just pick a good-looking template, add your questions, and send the link to your prospective clients.
There are also advanced logic features, such as changing the question set if a particular answer is submitted. For example, if a person picks "Family Law," you can have her questionnaire jump to questions about divorce, child custody, and assets, and skip any questions that might pertain to a criminal defense client.
Step It Up a Notch With Extensions
Having the data in a spreadsheet is great. You can copy and paste it into other programs as needed, or use the search function to find a particular client or opposing counsel.
But maybe you want something better looking than a big spreadsheet. Last year, Google announced a new marketplace for third-party add-ons to Forms that extend the functionality of the core program. My two favorites are Form Notifications (an obvious feature that should've been included in the first place -- it sends you an email whenever a form is submitted) and Form Publisher (which auto-generates Google Docs, like a mail merge, based on the data submitted -- great for turning those submissions into easy-to-digest intake sheets for client files).
Do you already use Google Forms or some other online form platform? Tell us about it @FindLawLP.
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