Start E-mailing Smart
By Alan Brill
Alan Brill, senior managing director for Kroll Ontrack, a company specializing in data recovery, legal technologies, and computer forensics, is an author, speaker, and instructor on technology security. You can contact him at
I t seems like every day we get more e-mail than the day before: more urgent client messages, more firm communications, and more offers for questionable prescription drugs. E-mail can easily eat up your whole day if you let it. Here are some tips for streamlining your e-mail communications.
  • Too much “spam” at work? Check with your IT department. They should be running software that removes most of these annoying messages before you see them. It’s not unusual to have the filters kill 95–97 percent of all e-mail arriving at a company. Not having to delete these e-mails or decide whether it’s safe to open them can be a huge time saver.
  • If you don’t need it, don’t keep it! Mailbox inflation is a real problem. If you don’t need a message, read it and delete it. The same holds true for replies. Most e-mail systems retain every message you send. You should regularly go through your sent mail folder and delete what you don’t need. Set up folders in your e-mail system to sort the messages that you do keep so you can find and delete them later.
  • Not everyone needs copies of everything. E-mail systems are clogged with endless duplication of documents, particularly e-mail chains that get longer and longer with every version. Perhaps one person could be assigned to be the “custodian” of messages relating to a matter, and everyone else could delete the messages after reading them.
  • A lot of e-mails should never be sent in the first place. E-mail is not a particularly secure way of communicating. Sending sensitive information from any computer, let alone from your laptop in an Internet café or from a computer in a hotel business center, is risky. For example, in one particular airline lounge, every computer was infected with a key logger that revealed sites visited, user IDs, and passwords. Using your own machine (with an encrypted hard drive, of course) and an encrypted virtual private network (VPN) connection can avoid endless problems. For some subjects, a phone call might be better; for others, hard copy or CD by courier might be the best solution. Not only should these alternatives be more secure, they’ll also save you some inbox space.
  • “Sanctions Just a Click Away: Email’s Ethical Pitfalls” (downloadable article from The Public Lawyer). 2008. PC # 51105671602PDFA03.
  • Introduction to E-Discovery: New Cases, Ideas, and Techniques. 2008. PC # 1620402.
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