Written by:

Jane Oxley

Where Did That Email Go? Email Management Tips For Lawyers

October 23, 2013

‘Did you check your spam folder?’

Nope, it’s not in there either.

Important emails disappear on lawyers all the time. Sometimes they sit unread in an inbox along with thousands of others. Sometimes they get filed away in some dark corner of a folder within a folder within a folder, never to be seen again. Sometimes they get deleted, accidentally or on purpose.

There are two sides to the email coin. Our natural tendency to overuse email to communicate can be a productivity nightmare, but they are also a vital part of a lawyer-client relationship. In fact they’re such a big part of legal practice that we often take their importance for granted; rarely do we step back from the daily grind and look at ways we can manage our inboxes (and our day) better.

Now is your chance!

6 Ways To Manage Your Inbox

Here are some tips sourced from around the web to help you spend less time answering ‘did you get my email?’ and more time actually working on a matter.

Get rid of the junk straight away

Be liberal with the delete button. Gmail has a cool new tabbing system that automatically puts promotional material into a separate folder, however most email clients struggle to distinguish advertising and spam. Clutter is clutter, pure and simple.

Use a matter management system

This is the best way to keep truly organized. With dedicated email and document management software you can automatically file emails against a matter, ensuring all correspondence is accounted for. The other great benefit is that it enables multiple lawyers to share emails within a firm – so everyone is up to date on how a matter is progressing.

Send less emails

Jack Weiner, CEO at LinkedIn, posted some excellent ideas for managing emails. His number one tip? If you want to receive less emails, stop sending so many! It’s simple but it’s true. Carefully consider whether it’s really necessary to copy someone in on a message. Or better yet, make a phone call or if possible see your client or colleague in person.

Create a rule for newsletters

So you’ve signed up to a bunch of newsletters, RSS feeds or promotional material. All of a sudden you seem to be getting a lot of emails that you’re mildly interested in but you just don’t have time to read. You don’t want to unsubscribe to them completely because occasionally there are nuggets of gold. Here’s a video tutorial on how you can create ‘rules’ to automatically divert incoming messages to a folder of your choice using Outlook.

Keep a good routine

Set aside parts of your day to read and respond to emails, rather than keeping your email open all day. You’ll find yourself less distracted from other work, and more focused on keeping your mailbox clean during the allotted times.

Use the ‘Two-Minute Rule’

This is based on David Allen’s bestseller, Getting Things Done. If you can’t read and respond to an email within two minutes, flag it as a task and then set aside time in your calendar to respond to it properly.

How to Cut Your Email Time in Half

When you think of email, what comes to mind? Email is essential to work and personal life, yes, but it seems to be a never-ending task. As we think of ways to streamline and optimize workflow, especially at law firms, we find ourselves asking a lot of questions about email. How much email is truly necessary? What can lawyers do to cut back on the time spent on email each day? What should our priorities be when it comes to email? If answering these questions appeals to you, we’re here to help.

1. Use Filters

When it comes to email, filters and labels should be your best friend. They can help you organize incoming messages and determine what’s important to look at in the moment and what can be saved for later. If you use Gmail, they’ll even do some of the sorting for you. Take it a step further by developing detailed work or client folders. If you’re working on a particular case, it’s easy to ignore the other folders and only pay attention to the client you’re serving at that moment. That way, the task at hand gets your full attention, and email doesn’t threaten your focus or success.

2. Set Aside Blocked Times for Email

Have you heard of batching? If you haven’t, today is the day your email life might change forever. Simply put, batching is dedicated specific time blocks each day to working through your inbox. It’s the best way to manage email efficiently, and it keeps you from clicking your inbox every time the number grows. Constantly switching focus from a project to your inbox detracts from the attention you spend on both. Choose two time blocks–perhaps 8-10 or 3-5 pm, to work through new email messages from start to finish. This is a great way to reach “Inbox Zero” and maintain productivity on bigger projects!

3. Employ Tech Tools to Help

There are countless tech tools available that can help you manage email more efficiently. Take Boomerang, for example, an app that allows you to schedule email deployment and reminders. It’s a robust and intuitive tool, so adopting it can take some of the pain out of email obligations. Smokeball helps with email as well; our ​case management software​ integrates seamlessly with Outlook to file every piece of client communication in one place. It makes it easy to email clients copies of important documents directly from a centralized location, too.

4. Don’t Put Off Quick Responses

One simple but critical tip for email management is to stop putting things off. That’s right, no more excuses. When you are working in your one or two-hour email time block, don’t put off responses that should be quick and easy. Send a brief, concise response and get one more message out of the way.

What is your law firm doing to make email management more efficient?

What techniques do you use to manage your inbox? Connect with us via your favorite social network.

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