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4 Tips For Using Email When Practicing Law

Some of the tips we’ll cover here on ways to make your practice more efficient require using new applications, technology or software. But I’ve learned that sometimes the best place to start when streamlining your practice is with the technology you already use daily. Email is a perfect example. I’ve often been surprised how little thought is put into the ways lawyers use email in their daily practice. Let’s take a look at a few practices you should implement immediately in your office if you haven’t already.

1. You Gotta Keep ‘Em Separated
First things first: keep your personal email address and your professional address separated. It looks more professional when your email address is clearly associated with your practice. Another reason to use separate accounts (as I’ll discuss below) is that your professional email address should be public (unless you’ll have no contact with potential clients and/or opposing counsel).

2. Make Your Email Address Public
Let me just state the obvious: it is 2012 and people communicate by email. As a result, clients, potential clients, colleagues and opposing counsel should be able to easily find your email address. It doesn’t need to be available on the homepage of your firm’s website, but it should at least be available through your attorney bio on your firm’s website.

I know the idea of finding your inbox bombarded with spam is scary, but in my experience the reality isn’t as bad as you may fear. I’ve always had my email address open to the public and I’ve never found myself seriously overwhelmed by spam. By and large, most email accounts include spam filters sophisticated enough to block most of the spam you’d receive anyways. What does get through you can probably identify as spam immediately, and easily delete it.

3. Happiness Is A Warm Email
If I had to choose between having my phone number and my email address available to the public, I’d choose the public email address. Email is much less intrusive than receiving a phone call. For example, if you are working on an important motion or preparing responses to discovery, isn’t it better to have an email quietly arrive in your inbox than to have your phone ringing off the hook?

Similarly, it takes less time and effort to check your email than it takes to check your voicemail. And it is easier to reply to an email too. You don’t have to keep replaying an email so that you can write down the callers phone number like you often do with voicemail. Instead, all you need to do is click “reply” and start typing. The flip side of this is that you should also rely on email when contacting colleagues, witnesses or opposing counsel (unless you need an immediate response) because it is more considerate, less intrusive, and requires less time and effort on your part.

4. C.Y.A.
Let’s be honest, a big part of practicing law is about C.Y.A. (an acronym that roughly translates to “cover your tuckus”). The legal industry, like any other industry, has its share of blamers, exaggerators, and generally dishonest people. It is a problem as old as time. Thus, lawyers have long learned the value of having everything in writing. While there is no written record of a phone call, email is practically designed with C.Y.A. in mind.

As a result, if you are communicating with a superior, there will be less chance that you could misinterpret their instructions to you. If you are communicating with an associate or a member of your support staff, there is less opportunity for them to misinterpret your instructions. Similarly, if you are working with opposing counsel, it will be harder for them to deny representations made during your conversations. Personally, I’ve literally shown up in court with a print out of an email in my hand. I was able to use that email to demonstrate to the Court that an opposing attorney was misrepresenting our conversations.

The bottom line is that I highly recommend using it to communicate with pretty much everyone you have a professional relationship with, but especially with your colleagues, opposing counsel, and witnesses.

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3 Comments

  1. Traffic Ticket Lawyer says:

    The tips you mentioned here are great. I just wanted to know can you actually use email as proof in writing?
    Regards,Traffic Ticket Lawyer.

    • Matthew Hickey says:

      Thanks Traffic Ticket Lawyer! The short answer is that email can normally be used as evidence (and often is) if authenticated properly. Of course, it is possible to attack the authenticity of an email. That said, I’ve not personally encountered a situation where the authenticity of an email was disputed.

  2. Thomas Mungoven says:

    I really like your writing style, superb info, thank you for posting .All words are pegs to hang ideas on