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Q&A: E-Mail Tips For Legal Professionals

For legal professionals, courtesy and respect for a client’s privacy are essential practices in the office — and that doesn’t just apply to paper documents and oral communication. Etiquette and good judgment are also essential for e-mail communication. The Legal Professionals Section spoke with Dmitri Leonov, Vice President of Growth for the e-mail service company SaneBox in Los Angeles, California, to discuss important e-mail practices for Notaries working in the legal field.

Obviously, privacy and respecting a client’s confidentiality is essential for Notaries working in the legal field. How does this apply to e-mail communications?
It’s absolutely essential to respect privacy when sending e-mail messages, and for Notaries, it’s even more important. Just as Notaries shouldn’t talk about their notarizations around the water cooler, don’t inappropriately send information about your signers via e-mail. A lot of people have a disconnect with privacy when it comes to e-mail — they don’t realize that an e-mail can easily be forwarded to anyone once you hit “send.” Once it’s out there, you don’t know where it will end up.

What are some steps legal professionals can take to avoid sending inappropriate information?
The best solution is before you click “send,” take time to review your e-mails. Very few e-mails are so urgent that they must be sent immediately. Give yourself time to review the content, and also review who the e-mail is going to. Over-replying to too many people is a common issue, especially at large companies. If you need someone to reply to your message, place them in the “To:” part of the message. But if someone’s name is in the “CC:” part of the message, etiquette indicates they are just being copied on the message but don’t need the reply. So think twice before putting messages in your colleague’s inbox, and indicate whether you need a response from them or not to avoid over-replying.

Are there ways to retrieve a message once it’s sent?
Microsoft Outlook has an “unsend” command but it’s not really effective. I don’t recommend it. Gmail is experimenting with a feature that if enabled gives you 30 seconds to recall a message after it’s sent. But really the best solution is to measure twice and review the e-mail before you send it.

We’ve discussed tips and etiquette for sending e-mails; do you have other suggestions for managing a legal professional’s incoming messages?
The number of e-mails we receive rises 7 percent each year, but there’s still only 24 hours in the day. A recent study said the average person spends 13 hours per week reading and responding to e-mail. To better manage e-mails, I recommend legal professionals budget 30 minutes to an hour each day for reading and answering e-mail, and leave it alone the rest of the time. Also, it’s important to prioritize. Not all e-mails are created equal. Some should be read and responded to quickly, some can wait, and some should be deleted immediately. But don’t let e-mail control you.

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