Back to School: The New (Almost) Definitive Guide to Google Tech for Law Students

Last year I gave new incoming 1Ls a look at the back to school tech they’ll need for the upcoming term. This time, I’m keeping those same suggestions, but I’ll also add a few new ones that will actually help you in the practice of law.

Back to School

The back to school essentials of Google tech

Chromebook

I’m absolutely thrilled with my Samsung Chromebook. It’s a lot outdated (2012 model), but I can still perform essential functions such as word processing, blog creation, and file management. If you’re not familiar with Chromebooks, get there.

Chromebooks are laptop computers that run Chrome OS. If you’ve used Chrome browser, then you’ll be able to use a Chromebook. The Chromebook is a rugged device for an insignificant cost.

Samsung Chromebook

Since you’re an incoming 1L, you won’t want outdated tech, and the newer Chromebooks are much better. I suggest you get an Acer C720 or the HP Chromebook 14, because of its larger screen. There are a large number of options.

I think you’ll also appreciate the weigh of these babies, especially when you’re only lugging about 2.5 pounds.

Another great Chromebook feature is its ability to connect to television through an HDMI (or VGA) cable. So, you could grab a desktop monitor, like this one, and turn your system into a two monitor system.

Finally, some folks worry about accessing other programs or tools, but that’s not too much of an issue, since Chromebooks also feature Chrome Apps to extend the device’s functionality. Admittedly, if you’re a heavy user of software programs, such as Adobe Acrobat, you’ll probably need a traditional laptop (though some solutions exist). Chromebooks cannot run traditional software (i.e. installed on a device) because of security issues.

Nexus 7 (2013)

You’re going to have to look around for a better tablet than Google’s Nexus 7 (2013). I have the 16GB model, but I’d probably recommend you grab the 32GB version, just for safety’s sake.

Nexus 7

This tablet will give you the ability to get away from your laptop to read cases, briefs, and other documents. Plus, when you add a Bluetooth keyboard like this one, you can create documents in a pinch.

If you’re really lucky, then your school will adopt an eBook policy, which will allow you to read the materials from your tablet.

Google Apps for Business

Before you read on any further, head over to this site and register for your Google Apps for Business account. I’m a Google Apps for Business referral partner, which means you can grab a code and save $10 off your first year of service.

Google Apps Logo

I know you’re tempted to use Gmail and your current Google account, but don’t fall into that trap.

Registering a Google Apps for Business domain establishes “credibility” and sets you on a path for the future. For instance, if you’re planning on entering solo practice (and you should because you’re statistically going to head that way), then you already have a domain you can use for sending and receiving email. Second, you can always cancel the account in the future if plans change, or just use the account for your immediate family’s business. Chances are your school’s already an Apps for Education customer.

Google Apps gives you access to Google’s entire suite of products, plus you can shut off advertising and scanning in Gmail. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned Google’s encrypting accounts and information.

First, you’ll be able to save and share your photos in Google+ Photos. I love that Google+ automatically backs up my photos and videos. Google+ can also create awesome images, “stories,” and movies automatically.

Google Plus AutoAwesome

Of course, some auto-awesome images are better than others, but I never worry because Google+ keeps the original. So go ahead and store those memories, create those stories, and live it up in law school.

Next, and perhaps most importantly, Google Apps gives you access to Drive, which includes Docs, Sheets, and Slides, as well as other tools.

Forget about losing your study guides, Drive gives you enough storage to maintain information. Hard drive crashes or lost thumb drives were everyone’s biggest fears during my years. Drive automatically (and regularly) preserves everything. And fortunately, because the information’s stored in the cloud, you won’t have to worry whether you forget your notes; you’ll simply need an internet connection and a browser.

You’ll probably use Google Docs the most, since that’s Apps’ word processing program. Be sure to check out this post on becoming a Docs master. Docs is becoming even more robust with the ability to edit Microsoft Word documents, and add-ons like track changes.

Finally, why not be the guy or gal everyone loves by sharing your class notes. Collaboration is great, so utilize your classmates’ knowledge to build a better outline. And while you’re at it, host a weekly study group Hangout to discuss your materials. Google Apps allows you to video conference with friends and work on the outline at the same time.

Chromecast

Chromecast celebrated its 1 year birthday, and I’m grateful this guy exists.

Chromecast Box

This accessory gives you the ability to stream media, such as Netflix or Hulu Plus, to your television or computer monitor.

Google also released opened Chromecast up to Android device mirroring. Now you can mirror your Nexus 7 (2013) screen to your Chromecast, which opens the device up for presentations and gaming. Plus, if you’re using Slides, you can send the presentation to Chromecast from your Chrome browser. I guess you know how you can add some pizzazz to your trial practice case.

Note: Chromecast requires an active internet connection. That means you’ll need a mobile hotspot or a travel router to connect to the school’s wired connection.

And now you’re prepared

With your tech in tow, you’re ready for school. Law school is the best place to become familiar with “the law” and other legal technology. Also, if you want to improve your tech schools, plan now to attend the numerous legal technology conference, like ABA Techshow.

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.