Effective Use of Email - Articles

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Posted by: Barry Kolar on May 7, 2014


Outlook and other Platforms

Using Outlook or other to manage your email: with modern tools email procrastination is a thing of the past. Here are some handy Outlook specific tips and other platforms offer similar integration between email and other office management apps.

Delegate a task in Outlook: When an email requires an action on your part, add the action item to your task list by clicking on the email 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 email 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 email sender’s contact information to your Contact file, drag and drop the email to your Contact icon on your Outlook Bar. The name and email address fields will already be filled in. You complete the rest.

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


General Email Management Tips

A lot of us are still printing emails 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 email 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 emails in a manner that makes them easy to retrieve without cluttering up your email box or overloading your email software subfolders?

Most email software allows the user to save emails in subdirectories in a readable format. Rather than print an email, save it in the subdirectory or folder to which it pertains. In order to easily retrieve it, establish a protocol for saving emails. Open the email 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 emails are sorted chronologically when you click File, Open, Folder in your word processing software. Email can be saved in email format (.eml), html format (.html) or text format (.txt).

The benefits are many: your email box is less cluttered, and retrieving email 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.

Email procrastination

Email 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 email 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 email. "Handle a piece of paper (or an email) only once."

When an email 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 email 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 email 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 email subfolder may make it harder to find.

Once you’ve properly "handled" the email, Trash it!


Four Essential Email Tips:

  1.  Treat an email as you would any other written correspondence.  While you may see it as “less formal” than a letter, you should treat it with the same degree of respect.  Just as a letter, an email may be viewed as a reflection of your professionalism (or lapse thereof).  Smiley/winky faces, txt abbreviations, and incomplete sentences should be reserved only for immediate staff, and never for clients or opposing counsel.  This is particularly important when emails can be composed in a rush on a smartphone, try to avoid treating an email to a client as you would texting a friend.
  2. NEVER send an email while you are upset.  Nearly everyone has sent an email that they wish they could take back.  Unfortunately, once it is sent into cyberspace, it is gone – and you may see it again attached to a motion or board complaint.  This rule applies equally to all written correspondence; however, with the drafting, printing, signing, etc., of a letter, there is often sufficient time to “cool off” and rethink your statements.  It is far easier, and therefore more dangerous, to send an angry email before adequate time has passed to permit your blood pressure to recede.  You should give yourself ten minutes to cool down before sending an email in any situation where you are upset.
  3. Do not insert the recipient’s name until you have completed the email (and reviewed for errors).  Accidents happen, and everyone has mistakenly sent an email before it was intended.  A sure-fire way to avoid this embarrassment is to remove all recipients until you are ready to send.  Even if you a replying to another email, you can “cut” the destination email address until you have finished and then “paste” it back in.
  4. Do not “cc” a client in an email to opposing counsel, as this discloses your client’s email address to opposing counsel, and it may permit opposing counsel to inadvertently communicate directly with your client if opposing counsel elects to “reply all.”  Likewise, never “reply all” to an email unless you know the different email addresses received by the original email and intend for your response to be delivered to each one.  Selecting “reply all” may inadvertently result in you communicating directly with a represented party.  If you wish to send an email or a response to multiple parties, insert each one individually, and ensure that an email that is copied to a client is sent as a blind copy (“bcc”).