If you follow this blog or read my articles in the Oregon State Bar Bulletin, you know I’m a big proponent of capturing email as part of the client file.
Read on if you believe, as I do, that email communications should be stored with the rest of your client documents to ensure a fully integrated, complete record of your work.
I Know You Love Gmail
Many lawyers are ardent users of Gmail. If you believe in saving email to your client file, this poses a problem. Google doesn’t provide a tool to let users save multiple messages in one step. You can print one message at a time to PDF or paper, but that’s about it.
One workaround is to use Zapier, a web automation app. [See my upcoming blog post on April 11.]
Outlook + Acrobat
Another approach [and my personal favorite] requires a combination of Outlook and Adobe Acrobat. These two programs work together seamlessly, allowing the user to create searchable email portfolios that are automatically indexed and hyperlinked. When the Acrobat ribbon is installed in Outlook, you are only a few mouse clicks away from converting a single message, group of messages, or an entire folder of messages to PDF. No need to worry about attachments, as these are automatically captured during the conversion process. [Beware that Office 2016 requires an upgrade to Acrobat DC.]
What If Zapier, Outlook, or Acrobat Aren’t For You?
There are other options, but if you’re a Mac user, you’re in luck. I can show you how to save client email in 5 simple steps without buying any new software. All you need is the Mail App built into Mac OS.
Mac Users: Save Client Email in 5 Easy Steps
OK, I actually fibbed a bit. First you need to set up your email account in Mail. Macs are configured to help you automatically pull down email from Yahoo!, Gmail, and AOL, so this is very easy. Your Web account stays intact. All you’re doing is bringing your email messages into the Mail app. Once you’ve set up Mail to pull messages down from your Web-based account, follow these five easy steps:
- Select the messages you wish to save [Use Command A to select all messages in a folder].
- Choose File, Save As.
- Verify the File Type is set to “RTF” [Rich Text Format].
- Verify that the box marked “Include Attachments” has a checkmark.
- Give the message string a name and save it to the desired location.
RTF [Rich Text Format] documents can be opened in Word, WordPerfect, Open Office, or any text utility [WordPad, NotePad]. This method will save your messages in a single thread which includes attachments. The result is a searchable document that can be saved with all your other client documents.
Once the RTF file is created, you can delete the messages from Gmail, freeing up space.
Best Practices for Mac Users
IMHO, I would perform this maneuver as part of the file closing process. Go ahead and leave messages in Gmail while your file is open. When the work is complete, and your file is ready to close, make it part of your file closing ritual to “File, Save As” email messages to RTF. Then delete the messages from Gmail. This creates an integrated, complete client file.
Personally, I file as I go – an easy thing to do if you’re using Outlook+Acrobat, but I understand why lawyers prefer to leave emails in a folder while a file is open. Many people find it easier to search email and use existing messages to send a new message. I get it. My only caution: If you do this, carefully review the original recipients of the message before you hit Reply All. Clients, in particular, may have included someone else in an original email thread. If you don’t notice this, and hit Reply All, you are sending confidential client communications to your client and someone else.
[All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis 2016]
[Note: no promises here that original attachment formatting will be preserved, but since most lawyers automatically save attachments as separate documents in the client file, I wouldn’t lose sleep over the fact that they aren’t perfect in appearance in your RTF email thread.]