Law Office Calendar and Email Management on the Cheap!

Since recently starting my practice and slowly but surely getting busier it became obvious that I needed a reliable and effective (read free) way to organize my emails and keep up with appointments. There is no greater fear for a new lawyer than that of missing a court date. So what did I do to prevent the unthinkable circuit judge tongue lashing? See below!
I’ve held a long-standing hatred of the Outlook email program for no good reason other than not being smart enough to use it. I could appreciate that its ability to organize is legendary – if I could only figure out how to set it up.
Tired of tinkering and knowing beforehand that I wouldn’t have the money for my own dedicated email server (exchange server for the nerds) I knew that I’d have to rely on good old fashioned Gmail to provide my service. That led me to my first problem – Outlook Doesn’t play well with Gmail in my opinion. So what did I do? I went to Mozilla.com – the internet gurus and found Mozilla Thunderbird.
Thunderbird strangely enough is almost identical to Outlook in its abilities and layout with one exception – I could finally set it up the way I wanted it – not how the tech nerd for my old job thought it should be done. Thunderbird seamlessly imports your Gmail, Hotmail, AOL or any other type of mail account you have in a simple few steps. I won’t get into all the reasons I love Thunderbird, but suffice to say it’s simple and not proprietary like Outlook. Where Thunderbird really shines – and the topic of my blog today – is in its calendar add-on called Lightning.
Lightning is designed to be used with Thunderbird and apart from its simple calendar layout and ease of adding and moving around appointments it has one quality that makes me feel warm and fuzzy – it will allow itself to sync with google calendars. Why is this important you ask? Google calendar has made a name for itself by allowing any user with a google account to access their calendar anywhere they have an internet connection. For us lawyers that means no more calling your secretary to see what you have scheduled!
That being said I’ll mention my final piece of the puzzle –accessing and updating my office calendar via my windows mobile phone. This has many obvious benefits but my two favorites are being able to check my calendar in front of the judge and telling him point blank that I’ll be available on “x” day at “x” time; no more calling the office to check. The other application I like most is being on the phone with a client and being able to schedule an appointment on the spot and have it already on my calendar when I get back to the office. At the end of this blog I’ll attach a link to the setup article I used to create my organizational powerhouse, but this blog is more about letting you know in layman’s terms what Thunderbird, Ligtning, Google Calendar, and your Windows Mobile phone are capable of.
The hardest part of the puzzle is importing your Google calendar into Ligtning – which is really about as simple as cutting a url and pasting it into Lightning’s calendar settings. Once created, you’ll need a program on your windows mobile phone to sync with Google calendar which in turn syncs automatically with Lightning. Sound complicated? Not really!
The only truly free option I’ve found for this task available for my windows mobile is a program called OggSync. OggSync is a free program whose only purpose in life is to update your google calendar via your windows mobile phone. The free version (which I use) will allow you to sync to one google calendar while the pro version allows multiple calendars as well as contact syncing. So now you’re probably asking why do I need OggSync? Well if you want to update your office calendar from your phone while on the go, or update your phone calendar from the office you’ll need OggSync. The program downloads to your phone like any other windows mobile app and is a breeze to set up. A link to the website for OggSync is below.
Now that I’ve mentioned all the players let me talk about how they work together. Say I get an email from the circuit clerk about a court date I have coming up. The email appears in my Thunderbird inbox, I click on the Calendar tab in Thunderbird and double click the date of the hearing at the appropriate time. Now that the date is saved a reminder will be added automatically to notify me 30 minutes ahead of time that I’ve got to run to the courthouse. Since my Lightning calendar is now synced with Google calendar I could easily double check the date in the rare event I’m away from my desktop computer AND my cell phone by using somebody else’s computer. But let’s say that I know I’ll be away from my office and won’t get that reminder for the hearing. It could be that the hearing is Monday morning at 8:00am and I’m not at work or I’m already in court on something else. Whatever the reason I need something to remind me on my phone. That’s where OggSync comes in. Once I input a date in my office calendar I take my phone and open the OggSync program and click the sync button. In about 10 seconds my entire office calendar is available on my cell phone. Once there, the reminders pop up on my phone as well. If for some reason I need to change a date while away from my office I simply open my phone’s calendar and make the change, open OggSync and it will update my desktop calendar at my office. I can hear the technology song from Napoleon Dynamite now!
I hope that I have opened your eyes to a free system for keeping up with your office calendar and emails – hopefully without confusing you too much. Once again below are the links to all the programs mentioned in this blog! Happy multitasking!
Clark Stewart,
Attorney at Law
The Soul Practitioner
Connect with me on LinkedIn!
The best tutorial out there for this setup!
The downloads
http://www.mozilla.com/thunderbird
http://www.mozilla.org/projects/calendar/lightning/
http://www.google.com/calendar
http://www.oggsync.com/