Email Importance

I, like most other people I know, preform email triage. When I review the message in my inbox, I know which ones I need to respond to immediately and those that can wait. One of the things I have learned is that if I send an email regarding something that must occur by a particular time, I put, in the text of the email, the deadline that I need to hear back form the person as well as an explanation as to the deadline if necessary.

I don’t think my behavior is unusual. In fact, it seems in line with most of the people I deal with.

However, I have some clients who, every time they send me an email, they mark it as highest priority. This drives me nuts. Let’s be honest, not every email they send me is actually of highest priority. Further, I am not sure what they hope to accomplish by doing this. Turning the priority flag on certainly does not cause me to address the email any faster. Further, unless it is accompanied by some explanation in the email (which it never is) the fact that it is flagged as high priority really doesn’t tell my anything.

The other day the following comic showed up on my desk calendar. I think it perfectly encapsulates how I feel about this issue.

Are Lawyers Moving to Virtual Fax Services?

I recently read an interesting column at’s Legal Technology Blog about attorneys moving to virtual fax services.

I agree with much of what the author has to say in this post. In short, virtual fax services are great. I have used one for years. When I recently opened my own solo practice I never even considered buying a fax machine.

The author points out that virtual fax services have a variety of benefits including:

  • Let you go mobile
  • Improve privacy
  • Increase security
  • Keep a team informed
  • Keep faxes organized and available
  • Reduce costs and environmental footprint

Jump over and read the entire post. He makes some excellent points.

As I was reading his post, however, I was struck by the thought of whether this is the right tactic to be taking. Yes, virtual faxing has great benefits. In my book, however, the benefits are no greater than the benefits of engaging in the same communication via email. I use a virtual fax service because there are attorneys who still refuse to communicate via email. I can’t imagine that these attorneys are suddenly going to move to using a virtual fax service.

My question is, shouldn’t we be trying to move these attorneys to using email?

However, if you are like me and still dealing with attorneys who insist on using a fax machine, go to a virtual fax service. You will never regret the move. It’s as close to moving your communications to email as you are likely to get in today’s legal world.

Email Signatures Requiring Confidentiality

Recently Chris Erb at erblawg wrote a post that hit on something that annoys me: the email signature that purportedly prohibits me from from doing anything with the message. Chris explains his frustration thusly:

These signatures are a pet peeve of mine. While the sender may hope that a couple of words in all caps will scare people into submission, there’s very little in the way of legal action which could be taken in the event I were to do any or all of those things. Quite simply, by sharing their wisdom with me outside of some contractual limitation on my behavior as the recipient (such as a confidentiality agreement between me and the sender) they ceded a significant meassure of control over the distribution of that wisdom. Absent any other restriction, the only real limitation on distribution would be copyright law, which may or may not help depending on the nature of the use. To my way of thinking, they’d be better off politely asking the recipient not to do those things and hope for the best. In my case, the mere attempt to “prohibit” makes me want to distribute the e-mail (or at least write a blog entry berating them for having a silly signature).

I agree with him on all of these points. One of my favorite comments, however, is what he ends with:

Of course, in this particular instance there’s another problem. Even if this were enforceable as written, I could, as a presumably “intended” recipient, apparently broadcast the e-mail to the world without arousing the ire of [the sender] . . . .

My favorite is when the “don’t distribute” warning is coupled with the “everything in this email is confidential and/or privileged” warning. What gets even better, is when I see this big long warning about not distributing the email, that the information is confidential and protected by privilege, and this entire warning is on the bottom of an email that is sent to a listserv that is distributed to thousands or tens of thousands of attorneys.

I know lots of people who use these warnings, but that doesn’t mean that you should do it. Think about the email that you are sending. If it contains confidential information, then label it as confidential (at the beginning of the email, not the end). Better yet, if the email really contains confidential information, is that something you should be sending via email. Is there a better way to communicate the information? Should you be using some sort of encrypted email?

Whatever you do, just don’t tag every email that you send with the same stupid warning about it being confidential and to not distribute it.

Another Reason to Own Your Own Domain

A couple of days ago, I posted about why you should own your own domain and not use a free email service for your professional emails. 3 Geeks and a Law Blog has published a couple of posts on the ethical dangers of using a free email address. In the first, after reviewing the terms of service for Google and Yahoo, the author concludes:

So beyond the security concerns, it appears that the use of popular, free email services for client communications is a violation of ethics rules since lawyers are revealing client information to a third party.

If you didn’t have enough reasons for moving to a secure email address on a domain you own, you can now add “getting a letter from Discipline Counsel” to the list.

In a more recent post, the author concludes with:

The legal profession holds itself out as having higher duties of care when it comes to securing client information. I suggest that using free email services with a TOS like Googles’ runs counter to this professional responsibility.

I think he has an excellent point.

A GMail Tip

The ABA Techshow Blog had a great GMail tip a couple of weeks ago. The post explains how you can tell if someone is accessing your GMail account from another location:

Once you’re signed in, at the bottom of the page you’ll find a lot of fine print.  Beneath where it indicates how much of your allotted storage space you’re currently using, you’ll see a line that gives the time and IP address of your last account activity.  Click on the “Details” link, and you’ll be taken to a window showing the last several times anyone signed in to your account, how (Browser, mobile, POP3, etc.), the IP address, and the time.  It will also tell you whether there is concurrent activity.  There’s also a button to allow you to close any concurrent sessions and link to allow you to change your password immediately.

I know that most people have a GMail account that they use for some purpose. Doesn’t it make sense to check this every once in a while to make sure someone else isn’t accessing your account?

Make Your Contact Information Available

A recent post on Business Writing caught my eye. In the post, Lynn Gaertner-Johnston relates a story about her decision not to recommend a person for a consultant job because she could not find her contact information. Gaertner-Johnston explains:

But when I tried to track down Rita’s contact information to give to my client, I couldn’t find anything but a gmail address. An email Rita had sent me recently did not include her phone number, website URL, or any other contact information.

Rather than give my client Rita’s name and gmail address with no other way to contact her or check her out, I recommended another consultant.

I run into this problem all of the time. I will receive an email from someone and the email does not include any phone number or other contact information. I receive the same thing with voicemails. Someone will call and ask me to return their call. However, they either rush through their phone number, making it incomprehensible, or they don’t leave one at all.

The reality is that if I have ever had any extended communication with you, I likely have all of your contact information in my contact database, but why make me go look for. If I have two people I need to call back and one person left me their number (either in voicemail or email) and the other did not, guess who I am calling first.

As Gaertner-Johnston explains:

Here’s the moral of the story: If you want work, share your contact information. Put it on everything. Include it on every message.

Sage advice that I urge everyone to follow.

You can find me contact info here, here, or here, or by sending a text to 50500 with the message BryanSims.

Creating a New Google Docs Document from GMail

Google recently added a new feature to Gmail that allows you to create a new document in Google Docs with one click. As the GMail Blog explains:

No more copying and pasting the text from your email — just open the message you wish to convert, click the “Create a document” link on the right side of the page, and voila, you have a brand new document which you can then modify and share!

This feature is not turned on automatically. To turn it on, simply open your Gmail account, click on Settings, then click on Labs. Near the bottom is Create a Document. Click enable and then save the settings. While there, feel free to poke around the other options available and try them out if any catch your attention.

Hat tip to Reid Trautz for first pointing this out.

Backing Up Your Gmail Account

I along with many other people I know have a Gmail account. I don’t use mine for business, however, I know that some people do.

If you are using your Gmail account for anything that is at all important, you need to check out Gmail Backup. Gmail backup is a nifty utility that allows you to backup your Gmail account. thus preventing you from losing any of your important emails. Google is good, but it is not infallible. Given the email outages that have happened with the Gmail service, it is not inconceivable that you could lose some of your emails at times.

If you use Gmail for anything important at all, I suggest you check out Gmail Backup.

Hat tip to Inter Alia for pointing this out.

WebMail Notifier: Another Great Firefox Add-on

FirefoxAs I have said before, one of the reasons that I love Firefox is that it allows you to install add-ons to make the browser work the way that you want it to work. The newest extension that I have fallen in love with is WebMail Notifier.

WebMail Notifier checks your webmail accounts (including GMail, Yahoo, Hotmail, and others) and lets you know when you have new mail and how many messages you have. For my work email, I use Outlook. However, I have a variety of other email accounts that are aggregated into my GMail account. Before installing this add-on, I often forgot to check my GMail account. Since installing the add-on, however, I have remembered to check the account on a daily basis.

The add-on simply puts a small envelope on your bottom status bar. When you have mail, the envelope lights up. It’s very unobtrusive, yet effective.

If you have a webmail account, I recommend WebMail Notifier.

Let Mail Goggles Save You

One of the things I love about Google is that they aren’t afraid to try something. They almost always have some cool new feature coming out of their labs. One of the latest is Mail Goggles. Named after Beer Goggles, Mail Goggles is a feature in GMail that requires you to perform a series of simple math problems before sending an email.

In the default setting, the feature is enabled only on Friday and Saturday nights between the hours of 10 pm and 4 am. The idea is that you may not be in the best frame of mind if you are sending emails at that time of night. On the other hand, Google figures that if you have the thinking skills to solve a few math problems, you can probably decide for yourself whether to send the email.

You can activate Mail Goggles from selecting Setting > Labs from you Gmail screen. Best of all, there are a bunch of additional lab feature that you can choose from in that same tab. Take a stroll through these features and see which you would like to enable in your Gmail account.