July 01, 2016

10 Tips for Young Lawyers When E-Mailing

The primary form of communication used by lawyers today is e-mail. When a young lawyer is starting out, it is unlikely that his office orientation includes guidance on how to send professional e-mails. Below are 10 tips for young lawyers when sending work-related e-mails.

  1. Use formalities. E-mails should include complete sentences and thoughts, correct grammar, and a salutation and closing. Formal language should be used, not slang. Do not forget to proofread!
  2. Confirm recipients and e-mail addresses before sending. Make sure that you include everyone who needs to be included on a particular e-mail. Also, make sure you are not including those who should be excluded. It is important to confirm the correct e-mail address of the recipient before hitting “send.” Especially if it is an important e-mail, you do not want the communication lost in cyberspace. The auto-fill feature in most e-mail applications can fill in a different recipient than intended, and this error can be overlooked in haste.
  3. Include the important portion in the beginning. Whether you are e-mailing the partner in your office regarding an internal memorandum or a client, everyone is busy, and having to read a long e-mail can be daunting. Therefore, it is good practice to include the most significant part of the e-mail or a brief summary in the first few lines. In this way, the recipient can tell from the first few lines of the e-mail whether he or she needs to continue reading.
  4. Use a descriptive subject line. A descriptive subject line is helpful for a number of reasons. A description aids the recipient in determining the content of the e-mail and its level of importance. Also, when digging through archived e-mails, it will be easier to locate a particular e-mail.
  5. Avoid inappropriate comments, language, and jokes. Consider who will end up seeing the e-mail. E-mails can be easily forwarded to an unintended recipient. To be safe, avoid inappropriate comments and language, as well as jokes, which can be easily misinterpreted.
  6. Consolidate e-mail requests. Attempt to consolidate information and requests into as few e-mails as possible. Having his inbox flooded is frustrating for the recipient. This practice also decreases the risk that an important e-mail will get lost in the shuffle.
  7. Close the e-mail. As mentioned in tip #1, ending the e-mail with a closing is preferred. Also, ending the e-mail with your contact information is suggested, so that the recipient can easily contact you by address or telephone, if necessary, without having to e-mail you again for your contact information or search the Internet.
  8. Promptly return e-mails. To keep clients (and others involved) content, prompt responses to e-mails are necessary. If possible, you should try to respond to e-mails within 24 hours of receipt or sooner.
  9. Consider using a telephone call or an in-person meeting in lieu of an e-mail. Details are often left out of an e-mail, and information can be lost in translation. Sometimes, you and others are better served by discussion by telephone or an in-person meeting.
  10. Be careful when e-mailing on a mobile device. Admittedly, it is convenient to e-mail from your mobile device when outside of the office, but it increases the possibility of transmitting typographical errors to the recipient.
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Finally, remember to remain formal, mindful, and prompt when sending professional e-mails.