Inbox Zero for Attorneys:
How to Unclutter Your Inbox

In the early 1990s, few lawyers used email, in part because most bar associations discouraged lawyers from doing so due to client confidentiality and security concerns. Fast forward more than two decades and how things have changed! Email is routinely used by the vast majority of lawyers, and for many of them, it’s become the bane of their existence. Emails pour in daily, and staying on top of those emails and reducing inbox clutter can be a constant struggle.

Fortunately, there are strategies and tools available that will make it easier for you to take control of your email inbox and streamline the way that you handle and manage your emails. Not sure where to start? Then you’re in luck! Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks to help you attain “inbox zero” – or at least something close to it.

Inbox zero for Gmail

Gmail is a popular email platform because it offers lots of flexibility and is easily customizable to your needs. Part of what makes Gmail so useful is the sheer number of tools available to help you manage your inbox. Here are a few of my favorites.

Streak is my most-used Gmail extension. It’s technically billed as a CRM (customer relationship management) tool, but I use it only to take advantage of 2 key features: the built-in email tracking tool and it’s “snooze” email feature.

With the email tracking tool, you can ascertain if and when an email recipient has opened your email. While this feature may feel like overkill, it can be incredibly useful. By knowing whether an email has been opened, you’re better able to determine whether you need to send a follow up email.

Next, the “snooze email” feature is one of my favorites. With it, you’re able to temporarily remove an email from your inbox after setting the parameters for when it reappears in your inbox at a later date. In essence, this feature makes it easy for you to use the email as a “to-do” that reappears in your email when you need to act on it.

Another nifty Gmail extension is Sortd. This app is essentially 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 can drag and drop new email tasks into Sortd, where they are then stored in a separate “skin” that overlays your inbox. At any time you can reduce the “skin” overlay view, allowing you to  view only your regular Gmail inbox.

Inbox zero for Outlook

Outlook is the email platform used most often by lawyers, so if you’re one of those lawyers, there are tools available to help you reduce the number of emails in your inbox. Over at Above the Law, Jeff Bennion recommends a few key Outlook add-ins designed to do just that.

First, he suggests using the EZDetach add-in, a low-cost tool that allows you to quickly and easily remove and file an email attachment. Another useful Outlook tool that he recommends is the SimplyFile add-in. With it, emails can be filed in the correct folder with one click, so you’ll no longer need to drag and drop. This add-in also makes it easy to turn emails into tasks and appointments.

Inbox zero for Apple Mail

If Apple Mail is your email platform of choice, never fear – there are email productivity tools designed just for you! Over at Attorney at Work, Heidi Alexander recommends two of her favorite Apple Mail add-ons that will help you achieve inbox zero: SaneBox and SendLater

She explains that SaneBox is a great tool to help you prioritize important emails. It also allows you to unsubscribe from unwanted emails with just one-click. You can also use it to delay emails for later viewing.

SendLater is an email scheduling tool. This add-on makes it easy for you to schedule an email to be sent on a specific date and time. So even if you draft the email in the middle of the night, you can schedule it to be sent in the morning. That way you don’t have to remember to send it when you get into the office, and it’s one more thing you no longer have to worry about.

Ditch email altogether – use secure client portals

One reason it’s so difficult to stay on top of your email inbox in 2018 is because email is outdated. This is because, in many ways, email is inherently flawed. It’s a horrible productivity tool – hence all the add-ons required to increase its utility. And, more importantly, it’s unsecure and every email you send via unencrypted email is like sending a postcard written in pencil through the post office.

That’s why in May 2017, the American Bar Association weighed in on email’s lack of security when it issued Opinion 477. The Committee explained that due to “cyber-threats and (the fact that) the proliferation of electronic communications devices have changed the landscape…it is not always reasonable to rely on the use of unencrypted email.”

Instead of struggling to keep your email inbox tamed, why not switch to a more sane and technologically advanced option? Secure client portals, which are often built into law practice management platforms, are the obvious choice for 21st century lawyers. Online portals make it easy for you to securely communicate and share case-related information with your clients in a single convenient, encrypted, and controlled online environment.

So, whether you abandon email altogether in favor of a secure online portal or utilize a few of the tools suggested above, email clutter will be a thing of the past! Gone will be the days of struggling to control the influx of email. In no time flat, you’ll be well on your way to more efficient and streamlined communication for everyone involved.

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