Taking the snail out of mail

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Ed Poll
Daily Record Newswire

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 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 email is probably the best form of communication for  people physically far apart.

Despite 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 it is the communication method of choice for lawyers. Let’s review 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 you care about how they do business (without forcing them into your communications mold).

You also should bring up expectations of email response time. Clients should not expect you to respond within minutes after sending an electronic message; they must allow you adequate time to receive 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 a 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,” that saves valuable practice time.

Fewer delays
Email is a great way to transmit documents without the delays inherent in transporting them by air or land. Transmission of documents via electronic media is secure and much faster than any other method. Lawyers around the country or  world can receive, review, and change documents and send them back the same day.

 LISTSERVs
With email discussion lists, or LISTSERVs, information is passed from one person to the group by email; logging onto a website is not required. This 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 can scan subject lines and participate selectively.

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..

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

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­­­­­­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.

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