How to Use Google Alerts to Monitor Changing Laws - Strategist
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How to Use Google Alerts to Monitor Changing Laws

As a small firm owner, how do you monitor news related to changing laws, without breaking the bank on a bunch of staff you can't afford?

Google Alerts.

Instead of having other people out searching the news for you, why not let me magic of the Internet bring it to your email? That's exactly what you can do with a Google Alert and it can work wonders for your peace of mind, not to mention your law practice.

Google Alerts are set up to monitor content, and they automatically notify users when new content from the Internet matches a search terms you select. You can use them to find out what is being said about you or your firm, monitor legal news, monitor the status of a bill, or even to stay informed as to what opposing attorneys and their clients are up to.

Notifications can be received in a number of ways, most commonly they are sent by email, but you can also receive them as a web feed or have them displayed on your iGoogle page.

You can choose from six types of alerts to receive when content matches the search terms of the alert that you have created:

  • Everything - this is the default setting, which aggregates the entire web through Google's search engine.
  • News - this setting will only send you updates when matching content makes it into the top ten results of a Google News search
  • Web - this setting will only send you updates when when new web pages appear in the top twenty results for a Google Web search
  • Blogs - this setting will only send you updates sent when matching content appears in a blog that is in the top ten results of a Google Blog Search
  • Video - this setting will only send you updates when matching content appears in the top ten results of a Google video search
  • Groups - this setting will only send you updates sent when matching content appears in the top fifty results of a Google Groups search

Users also have the option of choosing the frequency of their Google Alerts. You can choose from once a day, once a week or as it happens to receive updates in near real time. For some issues, once a day or once a week will be sufficient, especially if the topic gets a lot of hits. For Alerts that come in rarely but you want to be apprised of quickly, "as it happens," is the way to go. 

Setting up Google Alerts is relatively simple.  First go to, http://www.google.com/alerts.  Then pick your search terms.  Say, "California DUI law" for example. Then use the drop down boxes to select the type of alert, frequency of alerts, length of alerts and where to have them sent. With a little trial and error you'll have solid information coming to you when you want it.  Easy as pie.

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