Even though email is as ubiquitous at law firms as it is in other industries, few legal professionals pay adequate attention to the importance of effectively managing their emails. In a series of blog posts, we will look at the importance of classifying emails, archiving emails, mailbox management, getting legal professionals to comply with email management policies, data security practices, handling emails for departing attorneys or matter release and email retention and destruction.
Today, we'll start with the importance of classifying law firm emails.
The seemingly never-ending challenge with email in the legal environment is the differentiation between matter versus non-matter specific content. Most law firms use Outlook as their email solution. Lawyers prefer to work within Outlook – and tend to overburden the software with large numbers of folders and emails that have no classification beyond folder placement. However, Microsoft never intended Outlook to become a document repository.
Your email is likely filled with intellectual property, personally identifiable information and other confidential information. Losing access to this information can greatly impede your workflow. It is critical that emails be treated with as much care as documents – whether your focus is litigation or transactional law.
Investing in a Document Management System (DMS) that integrates with Outlook improves a law firm’s ability to classify and preserve matter-related data. Security, searching, precedence, speed and reliability are all improved with a DMS.
The primary challenge a law firm faces around document management is not purchasing and installing a system – but with its adoption. Collaborating with litigation and transactional teams that have unique and varying needs is the first step. When processes are well defined and customized, with input from attorneys and staff, they will be more likely to successfully accept and adopt them. Usage of the document management system should be mandatory, with tight integration. The ability to bypass the system should be disabled or limited to those with specific rights.
By defining, documenting and training standard workflows, adoption will increase. It is critical to provide training through system rollouts, for new hires, and ongoing support and assistance. Many firms record training videos that are short and topic-specific, making recurrent training easily accessible.
Would you like more information on best practices for email management? If so, contact us.