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Making The Most Out of Email In The Legal World

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What does your firm think of email? Both inside and outside of the legal industry we’ve started to see many detractors of the use of email. It’s gotten to the point where some of the most powerful professionals in the world are abandoning the practice of using email altogether.

It’s hard to disagree that email in the professional world has its shortcomings and the legal industry is far from immune to them, but ignoring new technologies will not help any firm thrive and grow. If ignoring new technologies won’t help, ignoring proven technologies that clients are already using certainly won’t have a positive effect on the legal industry either.

When it comes to email, abandoning its use won’t improve any firm’s operations, but there are some things that can be done to ensure that a law firm gets the most out of email.

Getting The Most Out of Emails In The Legal Industry

Before any firm can get the most out of email, they’ll need to realize what the pain points of using email are.

Emails Are Everywhere!

Most firms have a number of attorneys and other legal professionals attached to a single client or legal matter. What’s more, depending on the case type or area of practice the client could have multiple points of contact as well. This means that correspondence between the firm and the client could be coming into multiple members of the firm, from a number of different individuals attached to the client or matter. This makes for an arduous and time-consuming task just to track down the information needed or keep all the necessary parties in the loop on correspondence that could be crucial to the case being worked on.

Firms who successfully manage the correspondence between clients and the members of their firm generally park all email communication with the legal matter it is associated with. This alleviates any confusion created by clients that have multiple legal matters being handled at one time.

There are different ways this can be done. Many firms have taken to creating unique email addresses for each legal matter they are handling. While this does collect all correspondence in one place, it creates a constant reliance on IT resources to constantly create new inboxes for the firm, and management of all of these inboxes can become a task in itself.

For firms looking to avoid the creation of multiple inboxes for each client that relates to individual matters, sometimes tagging emails is an effective solution. This can reduce the strain placed on IT resources, but firms taking this route to manage their email are still extremely dependent on a manual process of tagging the emails. With multiple members of a firm working on a single matter, this can become problematic if strict naming/tagging conventions are not followed inside the firm. Ultimately this process of manually tagging all of the emails associated with a matter can result in a tremendous amount of time leakage with less than favorable results.

Some of the most successful firms have turned to automation to efficiently tag their emails and sync them up with the matter they are associated with. By automating this process manual errors are eliminated, ensuring that any member of a firm working on a matter will be able to access all of the correspondence associated with it.

Access & Security

While the idea of providing access to all members of a firm working on a matter seems like a great idea, there are instances where members of a firm should not have access to every email related to a matter.

Depending on an attorney or employee’s role at a firm, they simply may or may not need access to all of the sensitive information included in email correspondence between the firm and a client. Many email solutions that try to organize legal email correspondence lack the ability to restrict access to specific users. By creating a landscape that allows everyone to access these emails a firm could potentially open itself up to ethics violations, that could even lead to disbarment.

Beyond the security risk associated with universal access to email correspondence, in many situations, this type of email access does not create an environment in which a firm’s attorneys or employees can efficiently utilize email as a point of reference. If the attorney or employee of the firm has a specific role associated with a matter, many of the emails may not apply to the work they are doing. By eliminating access to the emails that do not apply to their role inside the firm, time leakage associated with sorting through useless communication can be eliminated saving the firm both time and money.

Firms that have a firm grip on the security and access of their legal email management system often work inside systems that allow them to define user roles and permissions that define who can and cannot see specific emails.

Leakage, Leakage, Leakage

Most attorneys will tell you their firm’s greatest enemy is leakage. Email can be associated with a tremendous amount of leakage, and many times firms don’t even realize it.

So much of any legal professional’s day is spent reading and responding to emails. Unfortunately all too often none of this time is recorded or billed to the client. This can create both time and financial leakage for the best of firms.

Attorneys who have taken control of their email associated leakage tend to record and attach time and bills directly to the emails they’re hard work is associated with. This results in a significant reduction in leakage for the firm, and truly makes email an efficient method of communication for the firm.

Firms that fail to associate their time and bills with the email they spend so much time on may be efficiently communicating with their clients, but they are not increasing the bottom line associated with the client and matter they are working on for the firm. So in the end, failing to appropriately record and bill for time spent on emails is just losing money for the firm.

Fixing A Firm’s Email Problem

I think you would be hard pressed to find a firm that looks at some of the downsides of email and says, “Well that’s it! No more email!” It would be devastating to the firm and how they communicate both internally and externally. Ignoring technology has never gotten anyone anywhere.

The best way to make the most out of email is to implement legal-specific technology that addresses email’s shortcomings in the legal world. The best firms don’t accept inefficiencies and inadequacies in the courtroom or in how they manage their business. If a firm wants to be truly efficient and successful with how they manage their matter based communication they should seek out next gen legal specific software solutions that can do the heavy lifting for them.
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