California Bar Journal
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How to manage your e-mail
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Here are a few pointers from attorneys and consultants on using e-mail:

Consult your client before using e-mail. Discuss its risks and benefits. Establish the particular modes of communication to be used in each attorney-client relationship.

Advise clients not to forward confidential e-mails. Ask whether your client's e-mail account is a corporate account accessible to his or her employer.

Consider seeking a client's permission in a retainer agreement before using e-mail. Obtaining permission is "always a wise idea" - particularly with less sophisticated clients, says attorney Mark Radcliffe.

Write clearly, concisely and carefully. Without body language and verbal cues, the tone of a written message easily can be misconstrued.

Remember that e-mail provides a written record and is subject to discovery requests. Also, keep in mind that e-mail easily can be forwarded to others. Says consultant Albert Barsocchini, "Always draft an e-mail as if it was going to be read in open court."

Consider encrypting confidential client-related e-mail. Attorneys and consultants disagree over when and if encryption is necessary. Some 30 services, including,,, and, currently offer encryption services at little or no cost.

Consider including a disclaimer on all e-mail, noting its confidentiality. Be aware, however, that disclaimers, too, can have drawbacks. One attorney-consultant suggests that a consumer could mistake such a disclaimer as evidence of an attorney-client relationship. (Another attorney, however, calls the possibility "a real stretch.") In addition, such disclaimers travel with forwarded e-mail. In one instance, a few Gray Cary employees received chain-letter e-mail promising a free trip to Disneyland. They forwarded it on and eventually a half-dozen angry people called the law firm demanding their free trip, recalls Don Jaycox, the firm's chief technology officer. They had seen the disclaimer and had assumed the e-mail originated with Gray Cary.

Use software that helps you manage your e-mail. For example, "filters" automatically can file certain e-mails, redirect spam or send automatic replies. Barsocchini points to one software program - - that time-stamps e-mail to automatically become unreadable after a set amount of time. It prevents e-mail, Barsocchini said, "from sitting out there."

Develop firm-wide policies for using the Internet and e-mail. Address such issues as e-mail retention, inappropriate material, personal e-mail, the alteration of third-party e-mail and accessing co-workers' e-mail accounts.