Problem 2- We can't search on e-mail advice as we can for word processed memos

2.  Problem: These days much of our advice is rendered through e-mail. Yet we aren't able to search on that advice the way we do for word processed memoranda. This is because the e-mail is:

  • saved only in the e-mail system,
  • supposed to be saved by the lawyers in the document management system (or other e-filing location) but is not in fact being saved, or
  • lost among numerous non-substantive e-mail that is also being saved.

Response: Design a lawyer-friendly process and acquire new software, in the case of the first point. Reconsider the process lawyers must follow and possibly the software being employed, in the case of the second and third points.

Discussion:

The required procedures should minimize the steps lawyers must take to e-file their e-mail and should leverage off of lawyers existing workflow. In other words, don't ask lawyers to take steps whose only benefit is e-mail filing for the greater good.

Many lawyers already create personal folders, typically classified by matter, to organize their e-mail. Software exists that can automatically e-file an e-mail dragged and dropped into a personal e-mail folder. This software has two drawbacks, though. First, upon creation of the folder, it would be highly desirable that the lawyer also assign the appropriate filing category (such as client/matter numbers). In practice, lawyers may not take the time to do this, however. Second, non-substantive e-mails will be moved to personal folders, although this will presumably be fewer than without the system.

Another automated approach is for a prompt box to appear at each e-mail send, asking whether the e-mail should be e-filed. Such a system could be highly desirable if the software also suggested an appropriate client/matter category based on prior e-mail to the recipient or other attributes.

An additional desirable feature is the automatic e-filing of subsequent e-mails in the thread based on the filing category of the first e-mail.

Software features vary widely and practices are evolving, so the specific approach desired needs to be considered at the time of software selection. Other issues should also be considered, such as how attachments are handled (e-filed with the e-mail or separately; possible duplication with document management system documents) and what security and access rules will apply to filed e-mail.

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KM/JD Consulting LLC renders impartial practice management advice to law firms on improving efficiency, increasing profits and reducing risk, emphasizing knowledge strategy.

Jack Bostelman, President

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Before founding KM/JD Consulting LLC, Jack practiced law in New York for 30 years as a partner of pre-eminent AmLaw 20 firm Sullivan & Cromwell.

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