Managing email: it’s the bane of existence for every lawyer in 2017. Email is the primary mode of communication for most lawyers these days (although perhaps it shouldn’t be, as we’ll discuss below). Because lawyers send and receive so many emails, it’s imperative to find ways to streamline and control your inbox, so that you’ll avoid wasting time on email when you could be doing more important work.
No matter what email platform you use, you have options. There are apps and tools you’re probably not taking advantage of that can help you become more efficient with your email and reduce inbox clutter. And there are also better, more secure communication tools that solve the many problems of email. So don’t get discouraged! There are steps you can take to streamline your firm’s communications so that you can focus on practicing law, not managing email.
If you use Outlook for email, there are built-in tools you can use to help tame the influx of email. As Jeff Bennion explains at Above the Law, tweaking your email settings can make all the difference. For starters, Jeff recommends in his post that you set up “rules” to automatically file low-priority emails into folders for later review.
To better manage and track email attachments, consider the EZDetach add-in. It’s a low-cost tool designed to work with Outlook. With it, you can quickly and easily remove and file an attachment. Another useful Outlook tool is the SimplyFile add-in. With it, emails can be filed in the correct folder with one click; no need to drag and drop. It also increases your efficiency by allowing you to turn emails into tasks and appointments.
And don’t forget about MyCase’s Outlook Plugin. This handy integration works seamlessly in the background to help you better connect your contact and calendar information across platforms.
If you use Google Apps to manage your law firm’s email, there are tools available for you, too, that will help you to better manage your inbox. First, consider using an app like Gmail Snooze. With Snooze you can temporarily archive your emails for days at a time according to the timeframe you set for each email. Simply assign the email a label and determine how long you would like to archive it. Once that timeframe expires, the email “magically” reappears in your inbox.
Another Gmail extension to consider is Sortd. It’s a skin that overlays your inbox and allows you to revise the subject line of emails and turn them into “to-dos” or add them to a “follow up” column. You drag and drop the new tasks into Sortd and they are then stored in a separate “skin” that overlays your inbox, but can be reduced at any time so that you can always view your regular Gmail inbox.
And of course, don’t forget about MyCase’s email integration features and our Google Apps integration. The Google Apps integration links MyCase to your Google Apps account, allowing 2-way synchronization of calendar events between MyCase and your Google Calendar. Contacts can also be imported from Google into MyCase, so that you’ll have everything you need right at your fingertips in MyCase.
Client portals – the most secure way to communicate
Another way to tame your email inbox is to stop using email altogether. Email is inherently inefficient and unsecure. Did you know that sending an email is like mailing a postcard written in pencil? Because email is so unsecure, making it incredibly easy for those who have the know-how to intercept emails — and their attachments — and read them.
You might think that despite the security risks, it’s ok to use email for confidential client communication since it was given the green light by bar associations in the late 1990s. However, the truth is that times have changed and now there are more secure alternatives available. This fact is something that bar associations have recently begun to acknowledge as evidence by opinions issued warning against using email in some cases. In these opinions, ethics committees warn that lawyers must balance the sensitivity of the information being discussed via electronic means with the security offered by the specific technology being used. (See, for example, ABA Formal Opinion 11-459 (2011) and Texas Ethics Opinion 648). You can learn more about how and why email is outdated from this infographic.
Fortunately, there are better, more secure communication methods, like the web-based client portals often built into legal practice management software. With online portals you can communicate and share case-related information with your clients, all in one convenient, secure location. The cumbersome back and forth process of unsecure, threaded emails is a thing of the past and is instead replaced by the ability to securely communicate in an encrypted, controlled online environment. Rest assured, online portals are the wave of the future. You can learn more about the benefits of secure online portals from this infographic.
Email inbox clutter will now be a thing of the past! No matter which tools you choose, your law firm’s electronic communications will be more streamlined and efficient. What more could you ask for as you start off the new year?