The right email account will bolster you professional image but requires some consideration and planning

Email Etiquette for LawyersEmail is an indispensable tool for attorneys, and has been for the past decade. According to the 2007 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, some 97% of respondents said that they use email at work for routine correspondence. More than 70% of respondents said that they use email for case status, memoranda and briefs. Email is also used by many attorneys for marketing, client correspondence, document delivery, billing,and court filings.

While setting up a new email account is but a 5-minute effort and email service can be obtained form dozens of sources, getting an -mail account that will bolster you professional image requires some extra consideration and planning. Here are tips:

Proper Email Etiquette means separating your work and home email accounts

You wouldn’t co-mingle your trust fund with your personal checking account; don’t mix your law practice emails with personal emails. There are a lot of reasons this is a good idea. Having a separate email address for work may help you reduce junk email (“spam”) at work. A separate email account will make your record keeping easier. You will be less likely to miss an important client or associate email. A separate email account keeps you from unveiling your personal email address to strangers. Finally, it’s simply more professional.


“NOTHING is less important than which fork you use.
Etiquette is the science of living. It embraces everything. It is ethics. It is honor.”
–Emily Post


Proper Email Etiquette means avoiding FREE Email services at ALL costs

Use your name or the name of your firm. Howard@DallasDivorceLaw.com looks a lot more professional than DodgersFan22@aol.com or DivorceLawyer@Gmail.com.

Avoid FREE email services if possibleAvoid “FREE” email services if possible. Email services such as Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo’s Ymail are handy choices for personal email, but they tend to look unprofessional — especially if the FREE email host automatically inserts advertising at the bottom of your emails, or Google display ads pop up on your clients’ computer for bail bondsman 10-seconds after you send a Gmail.com message to your client about their pending criminal case.

Proper Email Etiquette using a company domain or descriptive private domain name

If you have your own web site already, there’s a good chance your web hosting company offers email addresses that use your own domain name (e.g. Howard@DallasDivorceLaw.com) as part of your website hosting service. If you don’t already have a domain name for your business or law practice, consider getting one. Even if you don’t yet have a website, you can secure your upcoming website domain name at GoDaddy.com and get email service immediately for about $10 per month. Better yet, call us and get SSL protected, encrypted Hosted & Encrypted Email Service for 3 persons for $12 per person per month. Besides your professional domain name, you will abide by bar association standards using encrypted email, and have a calendar system that you and your staff can use to better manage your busy office.

Not a good idea:

  • Jim@hotmail.com
  • HockeyFan13@AOL.com
  • JDFxxx1000@yahoo.com
  • AwesomeLawyer@gmail.com
  • TedandJean@me.com
  • DivorceDude@ymail.com

Better, more professional options:

  • Jim@AtlantaPersonalInjury.com
  • r.jones@JonesFloydDavisPLC.com
  • paralegal@SeattleFamilyLaw.com
  • lsmith@jonesday.com
  • r.bailey@allenmatkins.com
  • steve.buffet@dlapiper.com

The other day, during routine research for a client we visited the website of an IP (Intellectual Property) law firm with six attorneys. Two have an email that used the law practice’s domain name (that brands and reinforces the website address every time an email is sent). The other four lawyers had FREE or PERSONAL email addresses. One had ____@Gmail.com email addresses, one had ____@Earthlink.net, one had ____@AOL.com address and the 4th had ____@netzero.net. NetZERO was marketed as the poor-man’s dial-up service for years!

Seriously?

We’re talking about a “high-tech Intellectual Property law firm representing engineers and silicon valley clients on the cutting-edge. Potential clients might assume that an IP law practice could figure out how to get their email accounts configured to use the firm domain.

Present a thoroughly professional appearance —Build your Law Firm Brand simultaneously

You as the owner of a law practice or a business of any kind should purpose to present a thoroughly professional appearance to the world at large. This means ditching your FREE email accounts for a business-domain related email account. All you have to do is go to a registrar service or hosting service that sells domain names such as GoDaddy.com, BlueHost.com, HostGator, GreenGeeks.com and so forth. If you don’t know how to do this then give us a call. We’ll set you up in a hurry. This is not a big-ticket item —but rewards you with big ticket “branding” and professionalism.

Upshot? Your overriding concern should be having email addresses for you and your staff that reflects that you are serious about your law practice and up-to-date on common every-day technology. Moderately technical potential clients will raise eyebrows at lawyers who ignorantly use FREE or obviously personal ISP email accounts.

Don’t Be A Novelist

Email messages should be short, concise and to the point. Think of it as a telephone conversation, except you are typing instead of speaking. Nobody has ever won a Pulitzer Prize for a phone conversation nor will they win one for a clever, but overly-lengthy email message: so don’t work at being long-winded —instead work at getting to the point.

Consider too, that many busy people receive hundreds of emails a day and the last thing they want to see is a message from someone who thinks he or she is an up-and-coming novelist. Cut to the chase.

Over Punctuated!!!

Business professionals and lawyers should not get caught up in grammar and punctuation excesses. You obviously have people in your network who send tons of email messages where they pound out a half-dozen exclamation points at the end of a sentence for added emphasis. We use “!” a lot here at for easy to remember, but hard to break passwords for our clients. In computer circles, exclamation points are called “bangs.” Spelling out !password! over the phone would be read out loud as: “BANG—P—A—S—S—W—O—R—D—BANG”. We would strongly suggest that you do not over use punctuation as a legal professional. If something is vitally important it should be clearly spelled out in your text, not in your punctuation.

Smileys — 🙂 or 🙁

We have mixed feelings on “smileys.” Many experts say categorically: “Lose the emoticons they make you seem unprofessional. Business email should not have little smileys in them.” We don’t always subscribe to that because we’ve seen friendships ruined and clients offended because the tone and tenor of an email was wrongly interpreted. If used sparingly to head off a potential misunderstanding: fine! Because there are no visual or auditory cues when sending and receiving an email, savvy digital-communicators will use short-codes known and interpreted as “smileys” or emoticons. Smileys are simple strings of characters that are sparingly interspersed in an email text to convey the writer’s emotions (cues). The most common example is “:-)”. Turn your head to the left and you should see a happy face (the colon are the eyes, the dash is the nose and the parentheses is the mouth). Here are some more examples.

This Means This
:-) Smiley face
;-) Wink (light sarcasm)
:-| Indifference
:-> Devilish grin (heavy sarcasm)
8-) Eye-glasses
:-D Shock or surprise
:-/ Perplexed
:-( Frown (anger or displeasure)
:-P Wry smile
;-} Leer
:-e Disappointment
:-@ Scream
:-O Yell
:-* Drunk
:-{} Wears lipstick

NOTE: “Smilies” are so popular that your browser will translate many of our punctuation examples for you 🙁

Upshot? – Because there are no visual cues like when you speak “in person” or auditory cues when you speak “by phone,” it is hard to read tone in an email, which is why “smileys” or emoticons were invented. You must be on guard and be careful about your written tone. Be overly cautious not to inject an ‘attitude’ or unintended sarcasm into your emails or replies to emails. Moreover, give the writers of emails where you think you read “an attitude” the benefit of the doubt. Email etiquette for lawyers means that you should always go out of your way to be upbeat and polite.


“I wish You idiot…
was an appropriate way to end a lawyer’s email.”
–A ‘Fun’ Client of LawSITES
–wears a polkadot bow tie at arraignments


Email Replies

No matter what: REPLY. Acknowledge your senders promptly that you received their message, even if you do not have the time nor sufficient information to answer right away. Even if no particular response is required, it is good email etiquette to acknowledge that someone is thinking about you. Minimally reply with a “thanks.” Never allow email to mail pile up in your inbox without acknowledging its receipt.

CC Line

Email etiquette suggests that if you are on the CC line, do not reply. Your are on the CC line for a reason — and that reason is FYI: “for your information only.” The sender and receivers on the “to” line are the players and you shouldn’t butt in unless someone invites you into the conversation.

Don’t be the “crazy uncle in the attic” —Think & review before hitting “SEND”

Don’t forget the attachment! You reference the PDF, the motion, picture or document, but don’t be the guy or gal that always forgets the attachment. People will think you are in early-stage dementia or just lack focus and attention-to-detail. Your email client (such as Outlook) has a spell-checker – never fail to spell-check your email. Don’t send an email with nothing in the subject line! That’s plain infuriating and lazy.

Keep the subject line current

If the subject of back-and-forth email exchange (a thread or conversation) departs or takes off on a tangent from the original topic, it is perfectly okay to do some housekeeping and alter the subject line to keep everyone’s inboxes in order. Your recipients will appreciate your attention-to-detail and thoughtfulness.

Answer all questions presented

A common email diversion among lawyers and other busy professionals is to cherry-pick a long email and only respond to the easy or less-dicey questions. If there are line-items that you are not prepared to answer or strategically don’t want to deal with, it is better to acknowledge them with a comment that you cannot accurately answer now. Your email sender will not be “clueless” that you purposefully ignored some questions and left them unresolved. It is better and more professional to respond to each question or matter, even if it means acknowledging you don’t know or cannot yet answer. Upshot? – Don’t make people have to re-ask the same questions over and over because you chose to ignore portions of their original email.


Call us – If you need fast help setting up your Email for a more professional image.

Encrypted email for lawyersIf you need assistance setting up email accounts on your existing business domain name, or need a new domain name and emails set-up, give us a call. It will not take more than a day or two to get set-up and functional resulting in a more professional appearance and the beginning of “branding” your legal practice. Better yet, call us and get SSL protected, encrypted Hosted Email service for your office. The service starts with a minimum 3 persons for $12 per person per month; and you can add additional individuals as the need arises. We can take your existing non-secure email accounts and replace them with secure email hosting too. You will abide by many bar associations’ new requirements for using encrypted email. Moreover, hosted email is unique in that it syncs all your emails, calendars and case files to all of your computers and devices (office, home, laptop, tablets, and smart phones). Finally, your shared-calendar, shared-contacts, and shared document ‘briefcases’ can be shared amongst your associates and staff to better manage your busy law practice.

Call us at (888) 900-9078 to get a secure NSA-tougher-to-read Email Service today!

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