Email is a great way to quickly and easily communicate with clients and fellow attorneys about a matter, but if it’s not managed effectively, email can become a productivity killer. There are a few things every law firm can do to improve email management.
Use Legal Practice Management Software
Every attorney should utilize email management software tools that seamlessly integrate with email programs—Outlook, Gmail and others. Law practice management software such as Smokeball, make it easy to sort and search matter related emails without having to sift through the inbox. Many law firms report that they shave off 10% of the time spent on administrative tasks simply because they’re using an email management tool. That 10% savings on time is money available for billable tasks.
If you want to get the most out of your email management tool, get training so that you understand how to access all of its features. The more you know about how to best use your software tool, they better you be at managing your inbox.
Change Communication Tools
Some lawyers rely heavily on email to communicate with clients and colleagues but sometimes it’s better to utilize other tools such as a chat box, instant message system or even a telephone conference call. Oftentimes following long email threads, especially if it involves many different people, can be difficult if not impossible. And if an email thread gets complicated enough, following it might actually decrease your productivity. The more you limit email use to only those issues where it makes sense to communicate via email, the less time you will spend sorting through your inbox.
Prioritize Your Messages
Email messages can create a pileup in your inbox when you’ve failed to act on actionable items immediately. To avoid this issue, you should tag messages as “take action now” and “no action needed.” On those items that you tag as “take action now,” you should schedule a specific date (and time) when you will take action on the item. Remember, tagging actionable items won’t be helpful if you don’t also schedule a time when you will take action.
Do It Once or Twice a Day
Checking your email inbox more than once or twice a day is a big waste of time. It’s better to choose a specific time to check your email once or twice a day. You should also limit how much time you’re spending on email so that you don’t end up wasting an hour sorting through low-priority or spam messages. Once you limit the time you’re allowed to spend on email, you will get the more important things done.
Share Your System
Once you create an effective email management system, share it with our support staff. Paralegals, legal secretaries, and receptionists can all benefit from having effective email management tools especially if they’re responsible for managing the inboxes of others such as an attorney they support. Even if your support staff doesn’t manage the inboxes of others, giving them access to good email management tools and showing them how to leverage them effectively will save them time on routine administrative tasks and will ultimately save the law firm money and increase productivity.
If your law firm wants to improve email management processes, utilizing the right software tools is critical but so is learning the tricks of tackling priority versus non-priority messages.