RPost Registered E-Mail
Alan Pearlman is a practicing attorney in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. He is the author of the nationally syndicated column The Electronic Lawyer and a frequent speaker at national legal technology seminars. He may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the web at www.theelectroniclawyer.com.
These days, most people never think twice about sending or receiving e-mail. They view it just like a conversation—once it’s over, it ceases to exist. Most attorneys will tell you, however, that an e-mail is a discoverable document. It is legal evidence to be used at any trial and for any discoverable purpose. The thing that most people seem to forget is that e-mails, unlike our conversations, live on in time, and the topic of the e-mail may be of such importance to a case as to cause its contents to become critical to a lawyer’s proofs in a matter. As a practitioner of family law, I can attest that a case can be won or lost when challenges are made to the truth and veracity of the statements in an e-mail or even to a time stamp on a document. Many a spouse has been faced with the explanation of the suspect e-mail in a court of law.
Businesses, spouses, and even lawyers continue to execute e-mails daily without any protections and without a proper retention system of records to avert a tragic mistake. How do you protect yourself from an original e-mail that was misquoted or one that was never read or received in the first place? You might ask for a receipt, but a receipt can be denied to the sender. What about challenges to the time and sending of the e-mail? With just a few simple mouse clicks, an original e-mail can be changed and the new version represented to be the original. The protection of your evidence and legal documents is more than just mildly critical to your trial and situation, and recent court decisions have proven that you must have a reliable e-business system to keep proper records of these e-mails. No excuses.
Enter RPost, a service that, described most simply, is a registered e-mail system for your law firm. RPost provides an e-mail’s sender with a complete and legally valid series of evidence links concerning the e-mail’s authorship, content, and sending and receiving to any e-mail address, as well as a time stamp from the atomic clock. You get a digital snapshot of the entire delivery transaction, including any and all attachments, which is protected, compressed, and placed into a tamper-detectable registered receipt that you, the sender, get back via e-mail. The recipient of your e-mail need not have any special software on his or her machine to generate this item to you. And because it never retains a copy of the original transaction, RPost is not subject to discovery. You may even send the registered e-mail without the recipient knowing that it’s registered; that way you won’t raise the eyebrows of your clients or opposing counsel, who may infer distrust on your part—but at the same time you get the proof you might need, should the occasion rear its ugly head.
On the computer of the e-mail sender, there is an automatically created folder called receipts, which the sender can archive according to preferences. This folder contains all the RPost registered receipts. You can tag the receipts with any type of identifiers (e.g., ID number, client number, or a project number) for easier retrieval.
You also can send a copy of a receipt to another e-mail address—a handy way to permanently store and back up your receipts off-site (in case your local computer is damaged or altered). This feature also enables you to forward a receipt to any individual who disputes the delivery or content of an e-mail that you sent. You even have the ability to put the registered receipt on a CD and bring it into the courtroom so the judge can authenticate the delivery and content of any contested e-mail message.
The U.S. federal government has tested, approved, and accredited RPost, and Congress uses it in the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Legal opinions have already stipulated that the RPost registered e-mail service meets the federal and state laws with regard to evidentiary proof of e-mail delivery. With an RPost registered receipt e-mail, you can withstand any and all legal challenges to your document’s originality as created or sent and received.
For some time I have been using RPost for all my e-communications both to clients and attorneys, and I find myself with more peace of mind about my e-mails and the copies of agreements that I frequently send out for approval.
Products come and go in the legal technology arena. Many are good, but once in a while one offers a tremendous boost to law offices’ productivity and peace of mind. If you choose only a single new technology to implement this year, I highly recommend that you adopt RPost registered e-mail for all your most important e-mail communications. You will not be sorry.