What They didn’t teach you at the Law School
Law School prepares you to think, write and research like a lawyer, but once you’re at the door of a law firm or a courtroom, there’s a whole new set of skills you need. The present series of articles aims to enrich a new lawyer with all these skills in order for him/her to excel.
E-mail is an indispensable tool for lawyers today. Be it routine correspondence, case status, memoranda/briefs or client billing and court filing, e-mail makes things convenient and faster.
However, getting an e-mail account that’ll work for you professionally requires some extra thought and planning. Here are some tips:
- Separate your work and home e-mail. Reserving an e-mail address for work only may help you reduce junk e-mail (“spam”) at work. Also it’ll make your record keeping easier and you’re less likely to miss an important work e-mail.Use your name or the name of your firm. email@example.com looks a lot more professional than firstname.lastname@example.org.
Free e-mail services such as Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail are good choices when it comes to personal e-mail, but they tend to look unprofessional — especially if the free e-mail host automatically inserts advertisements at the bottom of your e-mails.
- Use your own domain name. If you already have your own website, there’s a good chance your web host offers e-mail addresses at your domain name (e.g. unilex.com) as part of your hosting. If you don’t already have a domain name for your firm, consider getting one; they are inexpensive and have a great impact on the clients.
- If you are asking your reader to do something, start the message with the request for action and then use the remainder of the message to explain why. If you put the request at the end, your recipient is likely to miss it. If your message is lengthy, summarize the contents of the message with a few bullet points at the beginning.
- Consider who needs to receive your message, and include them (and only them). Do not use “reply all” when a direct response to the sender is more appropriate.
- Having a professional-sounding e-mail is quite effective in creating a positive impression. Make sure your tone is polite, your text is grammatically correct, and your thoughts are well-composed.
- Check your e-mail daily and try to respond to all incoming e-mails within 24 hours; even if it is just to tell the person that you have received the e-mail and will reply more thoroughly soon. If you’re going to be out of office for more than a day, activate an “Out of Office” mode that automatically replies to incoming e-mails and informs the person that you’re away from the office.
- E-mail is best used as a scheduling tool — to set up meetings— rather than for detailed discussions or making substantial decisions. You can use e-mail to record decisions and suggest next steps, but when you want to go in-depth, it’s advisable to use the phone.
- Sometimes knowing when NOT to use e-mail is the best e-mail strategy. When dealing with sensitive subject matter or seeking significant amounts of information, it is best to abandon e-mail in favour of face-to-face conversations.
- E-mail is inherently an insecure medium. Refrain from using e-mail to communicate information that must remain confidential.As a savvy legal professional, using e-mail effectively can help you cultivate a reputation for integrity and strong communication skills. Conversely, thoughtless blunders can damage not only your own reputation, but that of your colleagues, co-workers, employers, and clients.
* Executive Editor, Lawyers Update; Director General, Universal Institute of Legal Studies