We have been posting and receiving comments on a variety of email issues over the last 30 days. It is interesting to me that many of you are finding the topic interesting and commenting on the posts. A list of all of the posts in the email issue category can be found here.
Many people extol the virtues of gmail. Gmail has a unique way of tracking discussions so that emails, their responses and replies thereto occur in a threaded and organized manner. This is similar to what is accomplished in a bulletin board system.
We like gmail and use it for a variety of purposes. We also have webmail accounts that go with our primary email addresses through our webpost, but everyone at our office still uses Microsoft Outlook as the primary email tool. The ability to get your email offline, functionality of a client-side application, and the speed of Outlook functionality given significant advantages. When used with a desktop search tool like Copernic or Google Desktop Search, Outlook works better than webmail.
We use webmail as a supplement for our email service. Obviously, I can get webmail from any computer. I have my assistants type in dictated emails into webmail for sending. This allows me to generate emails using my portable Phillips Dictation System. I don't have to be sitting at my computer to compose email and make sure it gets sent.
I have my webmail set up so that the inbox empties when email is pulled into Outlook. This way, my webmail only shows those emails since my last connection to the internet through Outlook.
I can see how bulletin board systems such as encompassed in the basecamp extranet will be important steps forward in controlling and threading email discussions. But web based applications are still slower and clunkier than client-side applications. If I was not dictating bulletin board posts and emails, I would be significantly limited in my ability to generate information. Just because lawyers are willing to sit at their computers for hours on end, doesn't make it right!
At our law firm, we love technology and we use it as aggressively as anyone. The more aggressive you are with technology, the more you find yourself face-to-face with your computer screen. I cannot emphasize enough how important digital dictation and adequate staffing are to our business model. Without assistants sitting at the computer for me and executing my dictated tasks and content, the technology we use would be of much less value.
This illustrates the double-edged sword of technology. Increasing communication and capturing information are all worthy goals. But sitting at your computer in order to engage in communication and data capture are not valuable uses of attorney time. Clients certainly don't want to pay for an attorney to launch their web-browser, find their extranet site, log in, find the project they are looking for, click on the project, find the bulletin board area they want to comment on, click on the bulletin board, type in a subject, type in the body, edit for content and grammar, and hit "enter".