Email Management for Law Firms

Law firms manage many types of documents: Contracts, complaints, motions, orders and more.

Many law firms implement sophisticated legal document management software to keep everything organized and searchable.

And don’t forget to add email to that list, which makes email management for law firms an important task, and makes an Email Management System just as crucial.

Email Management: An Extension of Document Management

Law firms have been using Document Management Systems (DMS’s) for years to manage documents.

Document Management software provides law firms with tools like indexing and search, tagging and metadata, client/matter association and more.

So: why not email? Conceptually: Aren’t emails just another type of document?

A good law practice will not just save/keep emails related to their client’s cases: They should manage them. Here’s why:

WHY a Law Firm Should Manage Email

A good law practice will not just save/keep emails related to their client’s cases: They should manage them. Here’s why:

  1. Productivity. Searching for an email you need for a client or case can be a huge time suck and productivity killer. Every matter-related email should be quickly accessible within that matter record.
  2. Accountability. Have you ever had to ask a client to resend an important email to you? Have you ever lost or misplaced a sensitive email? Proper email management ensures this never happens.
  3. Collaboration. Chances are you’re not the only person in your firm working on a matter, and therefore not the only person that needs access to emails for that matter. Proper Email Management for Law Firms means matter-related emails are centrally stored, in the matter file, so all necessary parties can quickly access them.
  4. Centralization. Who has that important Smith vs. Jones email? Which version is the most recent? Who’s inbox is the email thread in? Good email management ensures important matter emails are centrally stored, creating a “single version of the truth”.

HOW a Law Firm Should Manage Email

Now you understand why your law firm should manage email beyond just storing them. (Right?) Next let’s explore how your firm should manage email, and what that really means. Having an Outlook or Gmail folder for each matter to save emails in is not email management. Email Management for Law Firms means:

  1. Matter-Centricity. Email’s should be centrally stored in your firm’s Email Management System (more on this later) by matter. Not in individual user mailboxes or even shared/public Exchange folders.
  2. Stored with Other Matter Content. Emails are, as we’ve identified, just another type of document. So they should be stored with and alongside other matter-related content, such as other documents and notes.
  3. Filter, Sort and Search. In a useful Email Management System, the user should be able to not only open emails saved to the matter, they should have the ability to filter and sort by email fields like date, sender, recipient and more. Imagine a matter with hundreds of email messages. Now imagine you want to filter and show just emails from Olivia Page, sent in October, with attachments. Good Email Management for Law Firms makes this possible.

Example interface of an Email Management System: The user can open an email saved to a matter, filter and sort by date, sender, recipient, attachment and more.

Sidebar: Practice Management is Not Email Management

Many Practice Management applications have rudimentary Email Management functions. They allow you to copy an email to a case within their case management system. While this is certainly better than nothing, these applications often come up short:

  1. The actual email integration is often clunky, requiring you to setup a clumsy email forward to get emails into the software.
  2. Often, the Practice Management software copies the content of an email to the case record, rather than the full email, in its entirety. A good Document & Email Management System will copy the entire email, in its full, native format (including attachments).

Note that generally speaking Case Management applications are good at managing your cases: Clients, calendars, tasks, time and billing. Often managing documents and email is something of an afterthought, and not core to what Practice Management software is really designed to do.

The Right Tool for the Job: Document & Email Management System

Outlook and Gmail folders are not good Email Management, just like Dropbox is not a good method of legal document management. Practice Management software is not good email management.

So what does deliver robust Email Management for Law Firms?

A true Document & Email Management System. Document & Email Management software goes well beyond simple folders for documents and email, and beyond the rudimentary, so-called document/email management of case management software.

A good, legal-centric Document & Email Management System for law firms will:

  1. Provide powerful indexing and search capabilities—so you can always find the email you’re looking for (even if you have tens of thousands of emails)
  2. Provide central, matter-centric storage of email, accessible to your whole firm.
  3. Store email alongside other matter-related data such as notes and other documents.
  4. Save the email in its complete, native format, complete with formatting, HTML, images and attachments.
  5. Integrate with Outlook: allowing you to copy emails (individually or in bulk) to a matter.

A software tool that provides these functions is essential to Email Management for Law Firms.

Popular Email Management for Law Firms

Popular Document & Email Management applications for law firms include Worldox, iManage and LegalWorks. If you’re not currently using one of the solutions, or something like them to keep your firm’s email organized and managed—we strongly encourage you to check them out.

Related: Comparing Worldox vs. Netdocuments vs. LegalWorks

Your firm’s productivity and credibility count on it.

About the Author: Dennis Dimka
Dennis Dimka is the CEO and founder of Uptime Legal Systems, North America's leading provider of technology, cloud and marketing services to law firms. Dennis is the author of Law Practice as a Service: How and Why to Move Your Law Firm to the Cloud, and was an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist in 2016. Follow Dennis on LinkedIn.

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