Email Like A Pro: Email Etiquette For Aspiring Lawyers

Written by on January 28, 2013 in Career - No comments | Print this page

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Businessman-EmailEmails have made communication quick and dirty. Long gone are the days where businessmen would wait days, even weeks, to hear from their clients and long distance co-workers.

Business transactions can be accomplished more quickly, information can be delivered at the drop of a hat, and you can connect your business with clients and partners regardless of their location. But emails haven’t been without their drawbacks.

Since your law practice surely relies heavily on emailing with associates and clients, make sure you’re not sending a poorly written, grammatically incorrect email without the necessary attachments to the entire firm. These mistakes do happen but they are absolutely avoidable when you keep the follow email etiquette rules in mind.

Etiquette Rule #1: Check The Address List

It’s easy to get excited about an email, shoot off a quick reply, and then realize you’ve just sent a personal note to the entire office. Or even worse, you’ve included a client on an email that breaches their privacy and confidentiality.

We’ve all made that embarrassing mistake at least once or twice, but let’s learn from our mistakes and double-check our address list before we send every email.

Whether you’re drafting up a new email, replying to an old one, or forwarding something to a co-worker or client, make sure the right people, and the right people only, are included in the address list. Including the wrong people could be a big career mistake.

Etiquette Rule #2: Attach The File

We’ve all made this innocent mistake a few times, too. However, forgetting to attach a file in an email that has the sentence, “I’ve attached the file here,” is a mistake that’s better not revisited. As an attorney, you know how time sensitive most projects are and wasting a fellow attorney’s time or angering a client while they wait for you to catch the mistake and resent the attachment can be detrimental to your cases and career.

Thankfully, some email programs like Gmail are catching on to this annoying faux pas and will scan your emails for the words “attachment” and warn you when nothing is attached. Look for a separate piece of software that will do something similar for your email program and stop annoying your co-workers.


Etiquette Rule #3: A Useful Signature

Signatures should be short, sweet, and useful. Too often, signatures are paragraphs long about which charities you support, every social media platform you’re on, a favorite quote in an entirely too large font, and maybe even a graphic of your company logo.

While you might think everyone wants to know every last detail about you, they don’t. Keep your signature to a minimum with basic contact information, your title, and your company.

Also, check what your mobile device signature is set to. An email that ends with “Sent From My ‘I’m Not At My Desk’ Device” can make you look lazy in front of your bosses and clients.

Etiquette Rule #4: What’s The Subject?

Subjects can be difficult to come up with and many people just leave them blank. However, nothing says spam or unimportant more than an empty subject line. Take a few breaths and write a small subject line that sums up what the email is about.

If it’s an important email, then say so in the subject line. If it’s about your client’s tax documents, then by all means, write that in the subject line. A well-written subject line is more likely to get your email read in a timely manner and responded to than some weird joke or altogether empty space that is easy to forget about.

Furthermore, keep an eye on all the “Re:Re:Re’s” that get inserted automatically. Having a few too many “Re’s” can be distracting and looks simply unprofessional.

Etiquette Rule #5: Do A Final Read Through

You’re a high-powered attorney in a big firm with big clients, a fancy degree that hangs on the wall behind your desk, and a yellow luxury sports car that’s waiting for you in the garage…but you don’t know the difference between their, they’re, and there?

I’ll let you in on a little computer secret: spell check and grammar-check don’t get every little mishap. Make it a habit to read through your entire email before you send it off. If anything, you’ll sound more polished in front of partners and clients so they can focus on the work you’re doing for them, and not wonder how you ever graduated from an Ivy League school.

Don’t let foolish email mistakes keep you from excelling in your career. A simple mistake can take an important email and turn it into a laughing stock, and you along with it. Take the time to send professional and appropriate emails to the necessary parties and avoid any embarrassing email faux pas.

This is a guest post.  Written by Pete Wise for the Douglas and London Law Firm; whom represent clients across the entire US, taking on cases no one else will. They have decades of experience as an law firm in New York and it translates into the courtroom.

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