My firm uses Google Apps to handle a variety of tasks, and for the most part, it works quite well. I have never been a huge fan of Google Docs, but its utility is increasing with the addition of some new features.
OCR recognition for PDFs
Google Docs can now scan PDFs and image files with Optical Text Recognition (OCR). Normally, I use Adobe Professional to run the recognition. If you do not have that program, or you are on the move, Google Docs can be quite useful. Say opposing counsel sends a settlement agreement, and you need to make some changes. Now you can tell Google Docs to convert the document and edit away. Of course, like all OCR documents, be sure to double check for accuracy.
Better usability and drawing features
Say you need to quickly create an exhibit, or need to insert a picture into a document. Google Docs now allows you to do either one easily. Again, it is probably a rare scenario where you need to do this, but it is nice to know you can do it online, from any computer.
Be sure to leave documents set as “private”
The major downside to Google Docs is privacy concerns. There are three settings, private, anyone with the link, and public. Private keeps the document only available to you. The second setting allows anyone with the web address of the document to view it and make changes. For a law firm, this is problematic. Granted, it would be difficult for someone without the address to find the document. Regardless, having unsecured documents on the web is a recipe for disaster. The third option, public, would seemingly have little utility for a law firm.
Fortunately, the default setting for all documents is “private,” and you have to manually change the setting. That said, if you or your co-counsel are uploading documents, make sure you to use the correct setting.