How can law firms keep track of client emails?
For law firms, there can be a significant amount of emails. Without the right processes in place, law firms can run into a number of issues:
- Individual user mailboxes preventing matters from being centrally stored in the firm’s email management system
- Failure to be stored with related matter documents
- Inability to filter, sort and search
These records should also be maintained as part of the client and matter record, as evidenced by several bar association opinions1. For law firms to effectively keep track of their client and matter emails, they need to take a proactive approach.
Saves emails as PDFs or text files
Client emails can be saved as PDFs or text files and stored in matter management folders on a shared network server that’s accessible firm-wide. If someone wanted to see what was happening in the matter, they could access the network folder to see what’s happening in a matter.
Attachments can be saved in a similar fashion, but clicking “Save As” and saving to the appropriate folder.
To make sure this happens, the firm should implement a workflow to make sure these emails are saved and stored in a timely manner so the network folders are kept up to date.
Document Management/Practice Management Programs
These systems can make it easy to store emails from clients and their related matters.
With document management programs and a single central database for firm email accounts, these can be saved as documents and associated with particular matters. Practice management programs often include this as part of the program, letting you tie in and view emails from clients within the practice management program. This makes it very simple for staff members to see what’s happening in near real-time.
With practice management programs, email is integrated with the system and doesn’t replace an actual email client. Instead, communication is received as normal, but you can set up particular emails and tags to be archived under a certain matter. This can also extend to email attachments.
The volume of documents that your firm deals with will be part of the deciding factor in whether or not you need a separate document management program if you’re already using or plan to use a practice management program. These types of systems are typically used by larger law firms who handle heavy volumes of document-heavy matters.
1. 2002 Formal Ethics Opinion 5: Retention of Email in a Client’s File
2. Documenting Email As Part of the Client File