Email management for lawyers is an incredibly important aspect of useful communication tool that has changed the way we work.
It can, if used to excess, take over our work day and crush our personal productivity. In fact, workers spend more than two hours a day looking at their emails.
For legal professionals, this is a far heavier burden, with email dominating communications and by extension, the amount of time needed to sift through them.
Some people receive literally hundreds of emails every day (perhaps you’re one of them) — an unsustainable volume of communication that is probably nearly impossible to effectively handle. The result is an inbox backlog that is frustrating and stressful.
So, how can workers in the “knowledge” economy, like attorneys and paralegals, get a grip on their inboxes? Here are our One Legal email management tips for lawyers.
There’s a common approach that argues that the best way to get things done is to schedule time for everything. This means scheduling time in your day for things like checking and responding to emails, not just the appointment-specific stuff.
There are many systems out there for dealing with inbox overload and focusing on the messages that matter.
It’s a good idea to read through your emails quickly, delete unnecessary items (like calendar request receipts, for example), respond to quick questions that take under two minutes, and flag messages that will require longer as separate tasks, to be dealt with later.
The tasks function in Outlook is massively under-used and can really help to avoid horrifying moments when you’re asked about a message by a boss, but you’ve completely forgotten about it and it’s sitting languishing at the bottom of your inbox. Creating tasks from emails is simple — just click the flag column, and then set appropriate due- and reminder dates.
If you choose to use approaches like the above to manage your email, then you’ll probably want a method for having very important messages brought more immediately to your attention.
Having messages, say, from One Legal alerting you of the status of an order, or an update on your case from a notifications service like Fetch, channeled into a special high-importance folder can be really useful.
You can also use rules for the polar opposite reason: to weed out less important messages, such as newsletters, by directing those emails to a specific folder that you can check as, and when you have time.
Setting up rules in Outlook is simple and takes just a few moments. The key is making sure to rank your folders so that the most important messages are right up top.
If you direct messages from your boss, or important case updates, to a particular folder, start the name with “#1” “#2” etc. and Outlook will display the folders in that order.
In some offices, email can often end up being used more like an instant messaging tool — with colleagues sending short messages back and forth in quick succession. If you’re using email this way, it’s no wonder you’re feeling overwhelmed!
Be the change in your organization by sending fewer emails yourself. If you need to ask a quick question, consider picking up the phone or walking over to ask in person. Alternatively, save up questions and ask in a single batch, rather than one at a time.
By implementing these tips and adopting efficient email management practices, lawyers can effectively handle their inboxes, improve productivity, and provide timely and professional responses to clients and colleagues — not to mention save themselves a load of time and hassle!
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