Should Lawyers Use Google Voice or Skype?

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Despite my admitted Mac-fanboy status, I do use other technologies. Notably, we use Skype for work and have had great success with it.

A recent poll, however, suggests that Google Voice is more popular than Skype. For lawyers, what works better?

Why Google Voice is better

It is cheaper, with the relatively low cost of zero. Kinda. If you use Google Voice through your cell phone, it will use your phone’s minutes. If you call using your computer, it will not use your minutes (well, it should not). There are ways to make sure all calls are free though.

Google Voice can also used from inside of Gmail, which is great, if you use Gmail for work. It will also transcribe your voicemail messages (with limited proficiency) and you can also setup specific caller ID preferences, when your phone should ring, etc. Google Voice is constantly changing for the better and with Google behind it, you can almost guarantee it will continue to work well.

Why Skype is better

Skype is not free, but at $2.99 a month (and a discount if you purchase a year), it is really cheap. It can be used over Wi-Fi or 3G and it will not up eat your cell phone minutes.

Skype also allows video conferencing, which is nice for business, and for talking to co-workers. Skype does not provide voicemail transcription, which is something of a bummer. Skype is available all over the world, so if you make lots of international calls, it might be preferable to Gmail.

The bottom line is that both are great services that do not cost much at all and either service is much cheaper than paying for a landline. I prefer Skype, mostly because it has always worked well, and I firmly believe if it is not broken, there is no need to fix it.

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  • There’s no reason you can’t use both, necessarily. Until I got unlimited minutes, I had GV linked to Skype and my cell phone. I’d use Skype to make outgoing calls or to handle calls when I was in the office to save money. Now that I have unlimited minutes though, I don’t really need Skype.

    The only problem I’ve had is Skype did one of two things:

    1. The forwarding on Skype would resulting in me receiving two calls at the same time. (One from GV forward, one from Skype forward)

    2. Skype had a bad habit of taking over my voicemail.

    But still, there’s no reason you can’t use both.

  • I can’t recommend Skype, after having nothing but trouble with their voicemail. First, voicemails would not always show up; I would get a message that I had one, but be unable to access it (two voicemails actually disappeared). I also set Skype to forward to my cell phone, but instead it would roll calls to voicemail before it even rang. I contacted Skype support three times, and each time they deactivated my voicemail, only to have it pop up again within a week. The third time, I had my session elevated, and told them if it happened again I would cancel my accounts. Sure enough, six days later calls started rolling straight to Skype’s voicemail.

    I have had zero problems with Google Voice, on the other hand. And now that Google Voice can (a) receive calls in your GMail inbox, and (b) be associated with a transitioned Apps account, it’s basically the ideal telephony solution for a Google user.

  • Larry Rose

    Randall, after reading your post, and Sam’s recent email to the LAB about your office phone set-up, I’m a bit confused about how you handle incoming calls. If a call comes in to your “main” number, and is answered by the virtual assistant, how does it get transferred to one of you?

    Also, how many numbers in all does the firm have? One main and one direct for each of you?

    And finally, although this is probably a separate topic, how do you handle incoming and outgoing faxes?

    Thanks,

    Larry

  • Erica answers our calls at her home using Skype. She can transfer calls to either of us using Skype, as well. Although we rarely transfer calls. I would rather call back on my own time.

    We have the main number, and each of us has a Skype number, although I use a Google Voice number as my “direct dial.” It rings my cell phone and Skype number so that I can answer it wherever I am.

    We use GreenFax.com for faxes. Works like a charm.

  • Veronica

    I use Google Voice that goes directly to my cell phone– with no problems. I would recommend it.

  • Christopher Kosel

    A feature of each that were not covered that I think can be of significant benefit in a law office setting:

    Google Voice (as distinguished from Gmail’s calling feature) is not tied to any device because the number is forwarded to the phones you direct (think permanent call forwarding). This means you can configure the number to forward to specific phones; during specific times of the day; and for certain contact groups. For example, a client calls your Google Voice number which then rings both your office and mobile phone. If you’re in the office, answer there to save yourself the mobile minutes.

    Skype has centralized account management which means that you can centrally control the accounts for everyone in your office. For example, new employees can be setup and billed by an office manager, reducing expense reports and allowing for an audit trail. As employees depart, you can cut off access to the account immediately and forward incoming calls to other staff.

  • I use Google Voice. I run my business from my cell phone but I don’t necessarily want everyone to have my cell number. GV gives me a number I can present to the public and route to my cell or home as needed. Also gives me the ability screen calls as it lets me know who is calling and gives me the option to take the call or not.

  • Ted Hoppe

    I have been considering setting up a GV account and using that number as my main number that I give out to clients/contacts. I see that there are others who appear to be following that approach. The thing that has been holding me back is a concern about ownership of the phone number. What happens if Google cancels the Google Voice service? Will we then lose the phone number?

    Ted Hoppe