Future Law

Why Every Lawyer Needs to Use Google Alerts

use google alertsWouldn’t you just love to have a full-time research assistant tasked with keeping up on the latest news and information regarding you, your firm or organization, and your clients? Someone who can constantly monitor what is being said online about the topics you need to know. Maybe it’s when a courthouse reporter publishes a breaking story about your hearing. Or that a government report was just uploaded mentioning safety concerns of your client’s product. As we know, the power of information, and the speed of your access to it, steers the quality of service to your clients.

Not only does Google Alerts do just that for you, it’s a free service from Google! Google Alerts is a simple tool to track mentions and alerts in a very customizable manner with up to 1,000 separate alerts coming to your inbox as frequent as you direct.

Ways to Use Google Alerts?

Google Alerts can offer a lot to you and your business, especially as an attorney. Here’s a sampling to spark your creativity to drafting your own alerts:

  • Track what is being said about your clients – Setting up alerts for your clients, e.g. by their personal name(s), company name(s), DBA name(s), etc., not only allows you to track what is being published in the media and elsewhere online, it gives you a leg-up on monitoring information about them to quickly pass along. This adds a great personal touch, especially when you may not have an active file open with the client.
  • Track what is being said about you – Where is your name or the name of your organization appearing online? Are you in the news and don’t even know it? Were you (mis)quoted in an article? Did the media report on your representation of a client? You might even wonder if your address has been mentioned online for a specific purpose.
  • Track your topics of interest – Do you have an author, musician, sports figure, politician, etc. you want to stay in the know about? Is there a legal subject area you specialize in or plan to write about? Maybe there is a seminal case you want to create an Alert about regarding your niche practice area.
  • Track your job openings – Google Alerts may help find that ideal job that fits your professional goals. For example, say you recently passed the Illinois bar exam and your trying to find a job in environmental law in the Chicago area. You might try creating an alert for: “associate attorney” and “environmental law” and Chicago. As new jobs are posted, an Alert should find your inbox with a link.

How Do I Start Using Google Alerts?

Just as you go to Google to run a search, you go to https://www.google.com/alerts to create your Google Alerts. As you enter your search term or phrase, the “alert preview” provides potential results of what would be delivered to your inbox.

Google shows you how to create, edit, and delete alerts. And you’re not just searching for the word or phrase you entered. You can tailor your search options (under “show options”) such as:

  • How often you get notifications via email
  • The types of sites you will see
  • Your language
  • The part of the world you want information from
  • How many results you want to see
  • What email to send the results

Tips for Using Google Alerts

Below are some suggestions for search terms to help you get the most out of your Google Alerts:

  • Use quotes, e.g. “Chicago Tribune” “Mark C. Palmer”, to focus your search results
  • Use a (+) sign in front of your term to specify results, e.g. +bike will not return results including bicycle, biking, cycle
  • Use a (-) sign in front of your term to exclude it from your search, e.g. road biking -mountain
  • Use “site:” and the specific website you want searched in the target phrase, e.g. site:2civility.org “future law”, to limit the search to that website

If you prefer, you may find it easier to just use Google’s advance search option.

Lastly, remember not to overwhelm yourself with too much information. If you find your inbox is all of a sudden busting at the seams with Alerts, simply return to the Google Alerts page and edit or delete them to control your personalized flow of information.





It is clear that becoming conversant, if not proficient, in technology is now required for being an effective lawyer. (It’s even written into a comment to Rule of Professional Conduct 1.1 that defines competence.) So, promoting professionalism includes promoting technology. We are devoting a blog in the first week of each month to an issue of technology. If I can learn it, so can you!

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