General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionSolo Newsletter


Here’s an Alternative: FreE-Mail

By Joseph Kornowski

Free Web-based e-mail now allows the mobile attorney to access e-mail from anywhere, without paying anything. Typically, though, you must have an Internet Service Provider account to access your “free” e-mail account — the only caveat to the “free” part.

Essentially, a free Web-based e-mail account is one that you can set up in minutes, using only a Web browser, on an Internet site like MSN Hotmail (, Excite (, Lycos (, Net@ddress (, or Juno (, among others. Given that most free Web-based e-mail services require you to have Internet access (Juno is one exception), you likely will already have an included e-mail account from your access provider. That is why a “free” Web-based e-mail account most often serves as a second, third, or fourth e-mail account that may find its best use, for example, as the preferred account for lawyers while traveling out of town.

Free Web-based e-mail accounts reside on a remote Web site, so that you don’t need an e-mail client software program on your PC, or even your very own PC, to access your account. A unique user name and password give you access to your account from any PC with a Web browser that connects to the Internet, whether that is in your local library or in the office of a colleague. The e-mail messages you send and receive are stored on the host Web server only and not on the PC you use to access the account, so that when you disconnect from your e-mail session, and clear the cache, there is nothing left on the PC for anyone else to see.

A number of free Web-based e-mail account services provide the capability to filter incoming messages to eliminate or reduce “spam” and to let you send attachments to your outgoing messages (e.g., documents, photos, etc.).

How can these Web-based e-mail accounts be free? In place of user fees, the revenue to support the service comes from the advertisements that you see every time you log into your account. The account provider is trading e-mail services for your captive attention to its advertisers. Also, some free e-mail providers sell your e-mail address to advertisers.

Is hammering on a keyboard to write a simple message and staring into a monitor with a death-grip on your mouse just to read, send, and manage e-mail about to drive you over the edge? If so, you might want to try dictating your e-mail messages, hearing incoming messages read, and even managing all your e-mail and voice mail accounts by voice commands with a product called Conversa Messenger.

Developed by Conversa Conversational Computing Corporation (, Conversa Messenger provides full voice-enabled e-mail support, both on your PC and remotely by telephone (including your cell phone). A unified messaging inbox allows multiple e-mail accounts to be managed from a single location, completely by voice. This includes selecting and moving between them, forwarding, deleting, and saving them. You can even have your e-mail read to you using text-to-speech. Moving to a specific message is a verbal snap. Just say, “Do I have a message from Ken Starr?” or “Do I have any new messages?”

Handle all your messages at once by having Messenger respond to e-mail with voice mail by just telling the system to record a voice mail message to use as the reply. This could just mean that the dictating machine will finally give up its space on the attorney’s desktop!

Joseph Kornowski is associate executive director and general counsel for the Los Angeles County Bar Association. He can be reached at



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