General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

A service of the ABA General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

Technology eReport

American Bar Association - Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice

March 2008

Vol. 7, No. 1

Columns

  • MacNotes »
    MacBook Air, Time Capsule, and Office 2008 for the Mac.
  • TechNotes »
    Imagineering, high-speed wireless computing, and predictions for 2008.
  • SurvivingEmail
    The advantages of multiple online personalities.
  • Sites for Sore Eyes »
    Fun and handy reference sites that rock.
  • ProductNotes »
    The HP MediaSmart EX475 and JD Supra.
  • DivisionNotes »
    GP|Solo leadership appointments, more on JD Supra, a solo & small firm caucus, the new law student web page, and a call for nominations on a range of fellowships and awards.

 

SurvivingEmail
Why Limit Yourself to One Personality When It Comes to an Email Address?

You can remember the days when a single email address—usually something like agoodlawyer@someisp.com or 1492555@compuserve.com—was as good as it got. If you can’t, then you’re probably too young to remember who shot Jock Ewing or John Lennon. Or a time when 14 kbps dialup was considered slick and fast.

Multiple e-mail addresses were a luxury known only to the elite who had their own domain names. And then came along RocketMail, Hotmail, and Lycos, followed by Yahoo! Mail, free web-based mail. Anyone could have multiple email addresses, making up user names on the fly. Even Beto the OfficeDog had his own email address back in those days. (He didn’t use it very often.) Soon nearly every email client had the capability of handling multiple personalities, enabling users to send and receive email from a number of email addresses. The times of a single email address were over.

Now, why would a lawyer—or any other reasonable person—require more than one email address? The answer’s easy and obvious: multiple email addresses, used wisely, can make filtering easier, cut down on spam and junk mail, maintain a professional presence, and make life a lot simpler. When we received only a whopping ten emails a day, sorting it all out was child’s play. Today, anyone with a single email address can count on receiving at least ten times that amount.

Prudent and ethical lawyers don’t commingle client funds with their own money. Almost all of them have dedicated areas in which they conduct business. Even lawyers who have home-based offices don’t meet with clients in the family room or the bedroom. They keep law office business separate from their personal lives. Law office email should be kept just as separate.

Establish a separate email address for each reason that you send and receive email:

  • The law office and its clients.
  • Your personal life.
  • Mailing lists. For a heavily-trafficked listserve such as Solosez ( www.solosez.net), it makes good sense to use a single email address dedicated only to that list. See Gmail: The Mail That Groks and Rocks.
  • Registrations, e-newsletters, catalogs, and junk mail.
  • Secret email. When you’re trolling on Match.com, selling something on eBay, or haunting Craigslist, it can make good sense to use a relatively anonymous email address that does not disclose your true identity.
  • And for the truly paranoid, there are even disposable email addresses such as Spamex ( www.spamex.com).

Those who own their own domain names (and doesn’t everyone today?) have yet another tool in their arsenal to impress clients. Let’s say your law office domain name is YourLawOffice.com, and your name is Tom Terrific. Most of the email directed to you is addressed as TomTerrific@YourLawOffice.com. Assign each client his or her own email address to be used in communicating with your office. Doing so can deliver a dose of special attention to the client while making a lawyer’s email management tasks easier.

How many times have you received an e-mail like this one?

Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2008 09:19:18 -0800 (PST)
From: QT4U <@yahoo.com>
Subject: hearing
To: TomTerrific@YourLawOffice.com

Hi Tom,

How’s my case coming along? I have some urgent news. Call me right away.

Joe

You’re representing six clients named Joe, and there’s nothing in the email that provides the slightest clue as to which Joe sent that email. Was it Joe Smith, Joe Fernandez, Joe Gee, Joe Fulano, Joe Jones, or Joe Black? You’re left scratching your head, trying to figure out what to do with this email. There is a solution.

When you begin your representation of each client, you created a file number in your office for that client and his or her case. Create an email address specifically for that client, using the client’s file number as an email alias. If Joe Fernandez’ file number is 2308Fernandez, the email addressed assigned to him could be 2308Fernandez@YourLawOffice.com. Instruct the client to send all email concerning his case to your office at 2308Fernandez@YourLawOffice.com instead of to TomTerrific@YourLawOffice.com, advising the client that this email is to be used only for communication with your law office and for no other purpose. Create a mailbox or folder within your email program just for mail sent to you from 2308Fernandez@YourLawOffice.com, and develop a rule for filtering all mail coming from that address so that it’s delivered to that mailbox or folder. You’ve just taken one step toward solving the mystery of the ambiguous email.

jennifer j. rose, former editor-in-chief of GPSOLO and secretary of the GP|Solo Division, receives her email at in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico.

© Copyright 2008, American Bar Association.