5 Reasons You Need Law Firm Email Management

April 24, 2017In Email ManagementBy Dennis Dimka
law firm email management

How Law Firm Email Management Software Will Save you Time and Stress.

Email is a staple of communication for any business, including–and maybe especially–law firms. But keeping on top of your email, keeping them organized and searchable and sharing them with the rest of your firm can be a real challenge. And that challenge only grows as your firm does. So to that end: Here are 5 reasons you probably need law firm email management.

The Fundamental Problems with Email for a Law Firm

Email is a great tool to communicate: Long conversations with clients, concise conversations with opposing council. Email certainly does what it was meant to do fairly well, but on its own: Email comes with a host of challenges to law firms.

1. Matter Information Segregation

Email lives in its own closed system (email software). That is, when you’re having a relevant conversation with a client on a particular matter, this conversation, along with any attachments or pertinent information, is stored in Outlook (or your favorite email software/service). Other important matter related information, including documents, case notes, matter data, and so forth–will be somewhere else. Maybe in your Practice Management software, maybe on your local file server. But in any case: matter-related emails are segregated from the rest of your matter data, which means inefficiency, wasted time and a potential for mistakes.

2. Not Centralized, Not Shared

Another problem inherent to email for law firms is lack of centralization. You may be one of three legal professionals within your firm working on a particular case, for instance, and may be trading emails with a client. Perhaps these emails are vitally pertinent to the matter, and support you’re extra-diligent about saving email mail to a particular folder for this matter in Outlook. Kudos to you for being so organized–the problem, however, is that that doesn’t help the other people working on this matter. They may need to review a particular email chain, or know what you said in a recent reply. Email, on its own, is fundamentally de-centralized.

3. Organization? Good Luck with That.

Another fundamental problem with email and typical tools to manage it (such as Outlook or Gmail) is that you are left to your own devices when it comes to (a) developing a system to keep your emails organized, and (b) sticking with that system. Yes, Outlook and Gmail give you some tools: folders, rules and tags… but it’s still on you to put those tools to use, develop a process to organize emails–and stick with that plan. And of course: there’s nothing ensuring that the rest of your firm follows the same rules for keeping things organized and matter-centric.

4. Email Search

Searching email with built-in email software is hit-or-miss. In fairness, Gmail has got email search down pretty well (though Gmail still suffers from the other fundamental law firm email management challenges discussed here). Outlook on the other hand can often let you down. The index engine is prone to breaking, which makes searching slow or impossible. What’s more: Because the indexing for Outlook is done individually on each computer: Your outlook index and search may work great on one computer, but be completely broken on another. (I say this as an otherwise avid Outlook fan.) Leaving search to your email software is a mixed bag at best.

5. OCR – It’s on You

Another thing that basic email software leaves you on your own to deal with is: OCR. Have you ever been emailed a scanned PDF document, opened it and noticed… you can’t select, highlight or copy any of the text? It sort of looks like a photograph of a document more than an electronic file. In fact: that’s essentially what it is: This particular document has not been OCR’d, which is the process of converting a scanned document to a full-text document. If a document isn’t OCR’d, its less easily editable by software such as Adobe Acrobat, and won’t be found in a search. (Because, again: it’s a photograph, not text.)

Yes, your law firm staff can manually OCR every PDF file in every email you ever send… but good luck making sure everyone does it, every time. Outlook and Gmail, or any basic email client, will leave you to your own devices when it comes to OCR.

Related: Paperless Law Firm: OCR

The Solution: Email Management Software

The solution to these fundamental email challenges is implementing software that was meant to organize and manage email, and do it in a matter-centric way. A legal-centric Email Management System is sometimes part of a broader Document Management System (DMS), sometimes referred to jointly as a Document and Email Management software for law firms. (Titles, titles.)

Law firm email management software keeps your emails organized, searchable and sharable to your whole firm. Most Email Management software works by integrating with your Outlook, allowing you to quick save or send emails to a matter, in a digital file within the document and email management database.

1. All Matter-related Data in One Place

A Document and Email Management System will keep all matter-related data together in one place: Documents for a matter, emails pertaining to that matter, case notes and more–all in a single system. After all: When you’re working on a particular case: don’t you need speedy access to all potential types of data?

For example, in our own LexWorkplace document and email management system: when you open a matter record, you’ll have a tab for documents, for email and for notes relating to that matter: All together in one place.

2. Centralized and Shared

Unlike individual Outlook folders scattered between multiple attorneys in your firm: With a law firm email management system emails are stored in a single, central database. And–a database that is accessible to your whole firm. With a law firm email management system, when one user saves a relevant email to a matter, the rest of the firm working on that matter can see and access that email (along with any other documents or data relating to that matter).

3. Perfectly Organized

With a law firm email management system, the system does the organizing, as opposed to the user. There’s no need to manually create an Outlook folder or a Gmail tag for a new matter: In many document and email management applications, when you create a new matter you can automatically start saving emails to that matter. For instance, in LexWorkplace a list of your current matters appears right in Outlook.

You can easily drag emails to a matter to save them. Then, when you (or someone else in your firm) needs to find an email: They simply open that matter and peruse the emails saved to that matter. In a good law firm email management system, users can filter, sort and search by sender, recipient, attachment and email date.

4. Search that Works

In a law firm email management system, indexing is done by the software itself. Indexing is the process where the document and email management software crawls and indexes every email (and document) you store in it–so you can quickly search for a phrase and find what you’re looking for. The index of good, legal-grade email management software is traditionally more robust than Outlook, and work without breaking. What’s more: the index itself is centrally stored: no need to wait for each individual compute in your office to update its search index.

The bottom line here: With a law firm email management system, search works every time, for every user.

5. Integrated OCR

Finally: OCR. A good law firm email management system will OCR scanned PDF files automatically. Meaning: when I send you a PDF that I scanned from my scanner (which I didn’t OCR, because I’m too busy or didn’t realize I should), and you store my email in your email management software: the software will automatically OCR the PDF for you.

This will not only save you hours every month, but will ensure that the PDF’s you receive and save are indexed and searchable. Email management nirvana.

Closing the Loop

If you and your firm are struggling to stay on top of matter-related emails: You’re not alone. And there’s software made just for law firms that help you do it. We recommend you at least evaluate one or two document and email management platforms.

Your firm’s productivity depends on it.

Related: 11 Reasons You Need Document Management

Epilogue: Seeing Law Firm Email Management in Action

If your firm is evaluating ways to better manage documents and email: take a look at LexWorkplace. It’s a great way to keep documents and email organized and searchable.