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Don’t Bother Trying to Sort Your Email

There’s a Hole in Your Email

Think about it. When a piece of mail comes into your office, you have a whole system for dealing with that paper. This system that you’ve developed ensures that things get calendared appropriately, routed to the right people, and filed in the right place. I don’t know what percentage of information now comes into most law offices by email, but it has to be greater than 50%. In my office, I would estimate that 80% of the information that comes in is through our extranet or by email.

Do you have a system to deal with email information that arrives in your inbox?

For all of the blessings of email, email is fraught with problems. Most firms don’t have any system in place to standardize the processing of information which arrives by email. What happens if your spam filter accidentally pulls an email out of your inbox which contains important information?

I received an email this morning from a potential injury client less than a week before the statute of limitations runs. I knew enough to send a reply immediately telling them to seek other representation. Of course, it took me until late this afternoon to realize that that email reply was stuck in my outbox. What if I simply flagged that email for handling later? Yes, malpractice is lurking in your inbox everyday.

I suspect that lawyers will wake up to the downside of email over the next many months. This is not to say that email is ever going away. And I am certainly not suggesting that we attempt to limit or do away with email. What I am saying is this. We must find ways to develop a process around our email inbox, just as we have developed different processes for handling non-digital information which arrives at our office. I don’t have the answer. I suspect some smart technology whiz will help solve the problem. Here’s hoping…

Comments

Robert Williamson

I concur processing e-mail is a major headache and that saving the e-mail to folders in Outlook really is not a very good solutions. I am experimenting with saving Outlook e-mail to the proper contact or matter folder in my case management program, Timematters(TM). You can link Outlook and TM. (It also links to Worldox.) Initially I was saving e-mail to TM myself but that was taking too much of my time so I have delegated that job to my assistant. My IT guru created a mirror of my Outlook on my assistant's desk. After reviewing e-mails, I move the ones I want to keep into a folder called "Ass't to Process." He then saves the e-mail and any attachments to TM--just as he scans and saves traditional mail. (I still save sent mail to Timematters myself.) Because of the volume of e-mail, it's still a hassle, but at least I am not as bogged down by the processing of e-mail as I used to be. I'd very muck like to hear how others are dealing with this problem.

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