Email Tips

Using Outlook to manage your e-mail: Outlook makes e-mail procrastination a thing of the past.

Delegate a task: When an e-mail requires an action on your part, add the action item to your task list by clicking on the e-mail in your Inbox and dragging and dropping it into your Task icon on your Outlook Bar. A new task will open on your screen and you can complete the appropriate information.

Calendar an event: When you receive an e-mail scheduling an appointment or due date, drag and drop that message to your Calendar on your Outlook Bar. The calendar screen will appear automatically. Fill in the appropriate info and you’ve calendared the event.

Create a new contact: When you want to add an e-mail sender’s contact information to your Contact file, drag and drop the e-mail to your Contact icon on your Outlook Bar. The name and e-mail address fields will already be filled in. You complete the rest.

Quick and easy. No more excuses for you. The e-mail’s in the bag!

E-mail management tips

A lot of us are still printing e-mails and filing them in the appropriate hard copy file folder as a way of keeping them with all of the other documents pertaining to a matter. While this may be advisable for purposes of documenting the file, printing every e-mail we receive may not be practical. Having them placed in the file in a timely manner may be even more impractical. How can you save valuable e-mails in a manner that makes them easy to retrieve without cluttering up your e-mail box or overloading your e-mail software subfolders?

Most e-mail software allows the user to save e-mails in subdirectories in a readable format. Rather than print an e-mail, save it in the subdirectory or folder to which it pertains. In order to easily retrieve it, establish a protocol for saving e-mails. Open the e-mail you want to save. Click Save As and select the subfolder or directory you want to save it to. Start each file name with the date (year/month/day) so that the e-mails are sorted chronologically when you click File, Open, Folder in your word processing software. E-mail can be saved in e-mail format (.eml), html format (.html) or text format (.txt).

The benefits are many: your e-mail box is less cluttered, retrieving e-mail is easier because it is saved in a subdirectory with other related documents and searchable. Your electronic client files are complete, limiting your need to pull the hard copy. Your secretary’s filing burden is reduced. And, assuming your data is backed-up daily, it is safe from disaster.

E-mail procrastination

E-mail that requires an action is a procrastinator’s worst nightmare. On top of the voice mails, overnight deliveries and faxes we must now contend with e-mail and worse even still — instant messaging. They keep coming and coming and piling up. If you don’t know the answer, they sit. If they require you to act, they sit. They sit and sit and pretty soon you’re so overwhelmed, you do nothing. Then you get a letter from the Board of Professional Responsibility. You’re in trouble.

A common time management technique that is often applied to paper documents also applies to e-mail. "Handle a piece of paper (or an e-mail) only once."

When an e-mail asks you a question you don’t know the answer to, use the "Forward" button and forward it to the person who knows the answer.

When the e-mail requires an action item, such as calendaring a date, adding an item to your "to-do list" or adding a name to your contact data base, do it when you read it and delete it.

When you need to keep an e-mail message, save it in a manner that is easy to retrieve; i.e., in a client folder, office matter folder, forms folder or research folder in your word processing software with the rest of your work. Keeping it separate in an e-mail subfolder may make it harder to find.

Once you’ve properly "handled" the e-mail, Trash it!

What are the ethics issues related to law firm web sites and e-mail? Good question.

Ethics rules are still attempting to catch up with these "emerging technologies." Generally speaking, however, a law firm web site may be considered an advertisement and, if so, must comply with DR2-101 - Communication Concerning a Lawyer’s Services - and all other applicable disciplinary rules.

You need to be sure your Web site avoids creating unjustified expectations and using false and misleading statements. It should also avoid creating a lawyer-client relationship between the visitor and your firm. The use of an extensive disclaimer is encouraged. (Go to Siskind, Susser, Haas & Devine’s Web site at http://www.visalaw.com and King and Spalding’s Web site at http://www.kslaw.com/our_firm/Disclaimer.html to view two examples of Web site disclaimers.)

Answering unsolicited legal questions over the internet is another area of concern and possible exposure. Providing pre-fabricated forms to be completed by visitors to your site that are intended to produce a "customized" a legal document for the "client" is ripe with risks. Practicing outside your jurisdiction and giving erroneous advice based on incomplete information are risks that should be avoided.