What if every letter, document, invoice or report that made its way into your law firm ended up either (a) printed and filed on one super-large manila folder with an extra super large tube clip fastener (for the paperphiles in the profession) or (b) saved in one (albeit searchable) folder on your computer (for those with papyrophobia, or simply a love of technology and efficiency).
Seems like extreme file management doesn’t it?
As practitioners, we know the above documents should be filed according to matter and client – generally in some semblance of order (usually chronologically), sometimes a combination of chronological order and document type (that is, court documents). There are many reasons for this, including ease of reference, consistency across the firm and the ability to easily track the history of the matter.
But let’s think about your email inbox for a moment. Did the blood drain from your face when you thought about your inbox?
What’s in your inbox?
Pretty much every email on every matter is there, some with attachments of letters, documents, invoices and reports. Sure it can be organised in chronological order, received from or sent to, marked read or unread, flagged, forwarded, attached to a task or appointment in Outlook, but at the end of the day it is really just one very big long file of every matter you manage, and perhaps some you chose not to.
Surely there is a better way to manage your inbox?
There is Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero – Merlin was a magician, surely.
You could use matter folders and manually move emails into the correct subfolder of your inbox, perhaps set up inbound or action-triggered rules (but do they always work??), maybe simply forward the email to a colleague with or without instructions on what step to take next.
These actions are probably on a par with printing emails and filing them in the manila folder – by the end of the day a chain of email conversations has stripped Officeworks of at least one ream of A4 paper; consider the costs and the loss of efficiency if you do that on a daily basis.
What if upon receiving an email you could determine whether the email should be (1) deleted, (2) delegated, (3) responded to, (4) deferred or (5) done immediately (perhaps Merlin Mann wasn’t a magician after all?) and then saved directly to the client’s matter so that all staff (with sufficient administration rights) can access and keep up to date on the progress of matters on which they are working?
What if I told you that, upon receiving an email you could simultaneously create a task, delegate it to a team member and allocate a due date/time, and be alerted when that task is actioned and completed – AND attachments to the email are indexed (searchable!) and saved to the client’s matter – automatically.
With more law firms moving to a dispersed workforce, an email management solution may increase efficiency and, in turn, productivity, ensure closer connections between file authors and file managers and more transparent (and secure!) movement of information across the practice.
Email management is often available via an add-in to your email client and integrates with your legal practice or document management software. Many legal practice management systems now offer email management as a standard feature. If yours does, why aren’t you using this feature? If your practice management system does not offer email management perhaps it is time to ask why not.
If you have more questions about management systems, the Practice Advisory Service (PAS) is a complimentary service offered to Queensland Law Society members. Our solicitors have years of experience running their own practices and are able to provide guidance in essential areas of practice management and business management.
Submit an expression of interest for a consultation with a Practice Advisory Service solicitor today.