Email has become the preferred method of communication for corresponding with colleagues and clients. Although writing an email is easy, lawyers need to avoid email pitfalls. By avoiding the common errors discussed below, your emails will remain effective and professional.
Tips to Avoid Email Pitfalls:
Failing to Promptly Respond
It is essential to do a thorough review of an email before sending it to the recipient. However, waiting too long to respond can send a message of disinterest to the client.
In the past, the general guideline was to reply to a message within twenty-four hours of receipt. Now, thanks to the accessibility of hand-held devices, response time expectations are accelerated.
If more time is needed to consider a question or task, acknowledge you received the communication and will follow up shortly with more information. If a response is delayed due to being out of the office, set up an automatic email reply to inform contacts when they can expect a return message. If time is of the essence, advise them to leave a message and relay that someone from the firm will be in touch as soon as possible.
Colleagues and clients may feel frustrated and angry with their lawyers if they think they are being ignored. Timely responses and open communication can help avoid these negative reactions.
Failing to Proof-Read
Emails with spelling, grammar or punctuation errors look careless and imply a lack of professionalism. Do not solely rely on automatic spell-checkers to review a message, as these features are not foolproof. Reading an email aloud can also assist in catching typos and grammatical errors. Do not sacrifice quality for speed as it could result in appearing unprofessional.
Unnecessary Use of “Reply All’’ on Emails
“Reply all” should be used sparingly and only when each recipient on the email is required to take action or needs to be kept informed of developments. Avoid frustrating email recipients by including only relevant individuals. To include only selected recipients, utilize the “cc” (carbon copy) or “bcc” (blind carbon copy) functions.
Failing to Attach Referenced Documents to Emails
Do not forget to attach referenced documents to emails. Though this can be a common oversight, if it happens often, it can appear neglectful. This can be a time consuming error for both the sender and the recipient. It often entails the recipient having to send an additional email advising of the oversight and requires a supplementary message from the sender acknowledging the mistake and including the omitted attachment. Consider attaching the relevant document before typing an email so it is not forgotten. To avoid confusion and a possible confidentiality compromise, verify that the correct and most current version of document is attached.
Using Vague Subject Lines on Emails Messages
Using ambiguous subject lines, or failing to use subject lines at all, can result in an unopened email. Utilizing a clear and concise subject line allows the reader to identify the topic, and perhaps, determine whether or not the message is urgent. Having an appropriate subject line in the initial communication is beneficial to the sender and recipients throughout the existence of the project or case. It allows all parties to easily search and identify emails specific to the matter at hand.
Like all communication with your clients, your emails should be clear, concise and professional. Find more communication tips here.
Erin McCartney, Esq. Copyright Swiss Re Corporate Solutions. This article is intended to be used for general informational purposes only and is not to be relied upon or used for any particular purpose. Swiss Re shall not be held responsible in any way for, and specifically disclaims any liability arising out of or in any way connected to, reliance on or use of any of the information contained or referenced in this article. The information contained or referenced in this article is not intended to constitute and should not be considered legal, accounting or professional advice, nor shall it serve as a substitute for the recipient.