Taking the snail out of mail


The real power of the Internet has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with people. When we think of it in that way, if the Internet were nothing more than email, that would be enough. Email enables communication among people so that they can stay in touch, build professional relationships, and help one another. It makes our interpersonal communications vastly more convenient and efficient. People send and respond to messages to suit their schedules; no more telephone tag. And, of course, email is probably the best form of communication between people who are physically far apart.

Despite some lingering complaints about email - it's too impersonal, people like to hear the voice of the other person, it's too difficult to type a conversation - not many can deny that it is the communication method of choice for lawyers. Let's review some of its uses and benefits.

Communicating with clients

When initially interviewing new clients, good questions to ask include the following: "How do you prefer to conduct your communications?" "Do you have email?" "Would you prefer that I email updates on the progress of your matter?" This tells clients that you care about how they do business (without forcing them into your communications mold).

During this conversation, you also should bring up expectations of email response time. Clients should not expect you to respond within minutes after they send you an electronic message; they must allow you adequate time to receive the email and review the issue or question. If you manage their expectations, they will be reasonable and more patient in waiting for your response.

Connecting with colleagues

The same considerations are appropriate in dealing with colleagues. Ask if email is an acceptable or preferred method of communicating with them about cases, internal firm matters, and similar issues. You might also inquire about whether they have a typical, or preferred, time for communicating about nonpriority issues. Many lawyers are so busy during the day that they respond to emails in the evening. This avoids "small talk," which, in turn, saves valuable practice time.

Fewer delays

Of course, email is a great way to transmit documents without the delays inherent in transporting them by air or land. With today's quality computer applications, the transmission of documents via electronic media is secure (though some might argue this point) and much faster than by any other method. Lawyers in different parts of the country or the world can now receive, review, and make changes to documents and get them back to the sender or to other recipients on the same day.

Staying in touch through LISTSERVs

With email discussion lists, or LISTSERVs, information is passed from one person to the rest of the group by email; logging onto a website is not required. This method is perfect for those who are busy: while LISTSERVs can generate a lot of electronic traffic, lawyers who do not have the time or inclination to read or respond to all of the messages need only hit the delete key. They can scan the subject lines and participate selectively as their time and interests permit.

SoloSez, originally created by the ABA General Practice Section, is an excellent example of a LISTSERV with lawyers talking to each other all over the world. The price of admission is zero. The conversation goes from the mundane (food recipes) to important issues of the day to the practical side of law, including referrals.


In communicating with others, building progressive relationships with colleagues and clients, and becoming more productive in our practices, email is a powerful tool that provides key benefits to all lawyers.


Edward Poll, J.D., M.B.A., CMC, is a law practice management thought leader and contributor to this publication. His website is at www.lawbiz.com.

Published: Thu, Jun 04, 2015


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