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  • A Bi-Monthly Electronic Publication for Section Members
  • June 2009

Technology and Law Practice Management

3 Tips for Managing Email in Microsoft Outlook

Email management is often the bane of a lawyer's existence. Even after spam has been eliminated, managing all the correspondence can be overwhelming. The 2009 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report: Law Office Technology reveals that respondents listed Microsoft Outlook as the software they use for contacts (75%), email (73%), calendaring (75%) and even practice management (45%). Microsoft Outlook is powerful, and ubiquitous, but are you taking advantage of its strengths?

Get Organized with Folders

Create folders to organize and separate items of the same type – for example, folders for individual clients with whom you exchange e-mails frequently, a generic folder for others, or individual archive folders for various e-mail lists to which you subscribe. For quick access to your most frequently used folders you can add a folder to the "Favorite Folders" by dragging and dropping. You can use different folders as your "files", rather than printing all items and storing them in separate physical client files. Create a folder structure that mirrors the folder structure on your hard drive and your paper file if possible.

Creating Rules

The rules function is one of the most valuable players in Microsoft Outlook, although this feature can be a little confounding if you create too many. In Outlook 2003 and 2007 it is easy to apply and create rules. The "ready-made" rules help users quickly apply rules to new messages, while detailed rules customization is still available. Users can apply rules to new e-mails individually, or can choose to write rules using the rules wizard.

Applying Rules to Specific Messages

From any message right click and select "Create Rule" from the drop down menu. Follow the prompts to create a new rule and click OK.

Microsoft Outlook, Creating Rules Example

Using the Rules Wizard

On the Tools menu, click on "Rules and Alerts". Select New Rule and Select a template to apply to incoming messages.

Microsoft Outloop, Rules Wizard

Search Folders

Microsoft Outlook, Search FoldersSearch Folders are virtual folders that contain views of all e-mail items matching specific search criteria. Search Folders contain the results of previously defined search queries, but all e-mail items remain in their original Outlook folder. With Search Folders, users can easily group and browse through all items relating to a subject, person, task, or other criteria, without physically moving messages or foldersThree Search Folders are created for users by default:

Unread Mail. All unread e-mail items appear in the Unread Mail Search Folder.

For Follow Up or Categories. Any e-mail message that includes a flag appears in the "For Follow Up" Search Folder (Outlook 2003), as well as categories (Outlook 2007).

Large Mail. E-mail items that are larger than 100 kilobytes (KB) appear in the Large Mail Search Folder. These three default Search Folders can be modified or deleted. Each user will find Search folders for each folder grouping, including Exchange folders, personal folders, and shared folders.

Flag for Follow-up

Microsoft Outlook, Flag for Follow-upDon't lose track of an e-mail that requires follow-up action. A single click on the flag icon of an item adds a default follow-up status. When viewing email messages in the inbox or in a folder, right click on the flag icon in the flag column to see options for color coding, as well as setting reminders for follow-up - or take other action - by a specific date and time. By setting a reminder flagged items will pop-up a notice, similar to the reminders in the Outlook calendar. Click on the flag icon again to clear the flag once an item is completed. Flagged items automatically appear in the "For Follow Up" Search Folder. Flags can be applied when sending email messages to other Microsoft Outlook users, indicating urgency, and even adding a reminder for the recipient.

Microsoft Outlook is a powerful, complex program. Learn to use its strengths to your advantage!

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