Clean Up Your Conversation!

emailEveryone struggles with e-mail.  The volume of messages is overwhelming and once you’re finished, filing is a nightmare.

Even when you think you’ve worked out a solution, it’s still a pain in the neck.

One of the more typical complaints I hear is the frustration involved with saving each separate message in an e-mail string.  Let’s say you begin a conversation with a client via e-mail.  The client replies, you respond, the client replies again.  In many offices, all four e-mail messages would be separately saved and filed.  Some would argue this is the preferable approach, but there is another option.

If you are an Outlook user, consider Conversation Clean Up to eliminate the redundant messages and streamline e-mail filing.

According to Microsoft:

Conversation Clean Up evaluates the contents of each message in the Conversation. If a message is completely contained within one of the replies, the previous message is deleted… Conversation Clean Up is most useful on Conversations with many responses back and forth especially with many recipients.

You can Clean Up a conversation, Clean Up an entire folder of messages, or Clean Up a folder and its subfolders.  You can also exempt e-mails from the Clean Up process if you prefer to keep discrete messages.  See this how-to.

All Rights Reserved Beverly Michaelis (2013)

The Best of TECHSHOW – Tips and Tricks

Every year the ABA TECHSHOW brings together some of the best legal technology minds our profession has to offer.  This year was no exception.  Over the next few posts I’ll share what I learned at this year’s conference.  Today: the best of 60 Tips in 60 Minutes.

Microsoft Office

Office Ribbon getting in the way? 

Use Ctrl F1 to toggle it off (and on).

View recently opened documents in Word with a quick right click

Want to see the most recently opened items in Word?  Right click on the Word icon on your desktop.  A list of recently opened items appears (whether Word is launched or not.)

Recover unsaved Word 2010/2013 documents or Excel 2010/2013 Workbooks

If your computer crashes and you haven’t saved your document or spreadsheet, act fast to recover your document. In Word or Excel 2010/2013, select File > Info > Manage Versions to recover your unsaved documents.

Print a blank Outlook calendar

A blank Outlook calendar can be handy for coordinating with others, but how can you print one that doesn’t show scheduled court dates, client appointments, or other events?  Easy!  The steps vary according to your version of Outlook.  Here are links to the instructions: Outlook 2007, Outlook 2010, Outlook 2013.

imagesReveal a sender’s full e-mail address

Sometimes e-mail messages only show the sender’s name.  If you want to see the full e-mail address, follow these steps:  In the blue message header, mouse over the name, right click, choose properties > show full e-mail address.

Need a system to follow-up on sent e-mails? 

Here are two approaches.

Option 1 – Create a “Waiting For” folder in Outlook

Drag e-mails that require a follow-up to this destination. If desired, add a “code” to the body of your message like “wff” (Waiting For Folder).  Create an Outlook rule that looks for this code and auto-files the messages that contain it in the Waiting For Folder.

Option 2 – The cc: method

Set up a “Delegated Mail” folder in Outlook.  Copy yourself on all e-mails that require a follow-up.  Create an Outlook rule that checks messages when they arrive, looks for your name as the sender and for your name in the cc: box.  Direct the rule to file messages that meet this criteria in a “Delegated Mail” folder.

Eliminate long, redundant e-mail threads

In Outlook 2010/2013, delete redundant e-mail strings by using “Clean Up a Conversation.”  The clean up function removes the prior e-mails and keeps only the most recent message – which has the entire thread.

How about a handy shortcut to an e-mail address? 

Create one right on your desktop.  Right click, select New > Shortcut.  In the “Create Shortcut” dialog box, type mailto: and the desired e-mail address. For example: mailto:joesmith@gmail.com (leave no spaces between the colon and the e-mail address). Click Finish.  You can now send an e-mail to Joe directly from your desktop without launching Outlook.

Never forget an attachment again

Download CodeTwo and never forget an e-mail attachment again.  This free download looks for keywords in the body of your e-mail like “enclosed” and “attached” and reminds you to add an attachment before your e-mail is sent.

Bloated e-mail inbox?

Clean it up with Outlook’s cleanup tools.  Choose File > Info > Cleanup Tools.  Choose Mailbox Cleanup… to manage the size of your mailbox with advanced tools, empty deleted items permanently, or move old items to an archive folder.

Disabling “reply to all” or “forwarding”

To prevent clients from forwarding e-mails or using “reply to all” inappropriately use this workaround to disable the functionality.  Yes, a persistent user can still “copy and paste” the body of your e-mail into a new message, but disabling forwarding or “reply to all” tends to stop 99% of perpetrators.

Work with clients or collaborate with colleagues in a different time zone?

Follow these easy steps to add a second time zone to your calendar in Outlook.

Open Your Mail and Calendar in Separate Windows

It can be annoying to toggle back and forth between your mail and other components of Outlook.  From anywhere in Outlook’s Navigation pane (Inbox, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, Notes) right click on the second Outlook item you wish to view and choose “Open in new window.”

Security and Privacy

Looking for a secure flash drive?

Here are three good options: Imation Defender F200 Biometric, Aegis Secure Key, CMS Secure Vault FIPS.

Computer Screen Privacy

Keep prying eyes off your computer screen with PrivateEye from Oculis. Using facial recognition, the software instantly blurs your monitor if you leave your desk or turn away.

Wish you could monitor your servers remotely?

lockYou can with PC Monitor.  Compatible with iPad, iPhone, iPod. Free for non-commercial use.

Secure external hard drives

Just as flash drives should be encrypted or protected with biometrics, lawyers should take similar precautions to secure external hard drives.  Here are three choices:   Lenovo ThinkPad USB 3.0 Secure Hard Drive, Aegis Padlock, CMS Secure Disk Vault.

That Pesky Facebook

If you love connecting with friends and family on Facebook, but are worried about who might have access to your data, check out MyPermissions. Sign up to receive alerts when a Facebook app gains access to your personal information.

Productivity

Addicted to multiple monitors and wish you had one for the road?

You can with the portable Lenovo ThinkVision LT1421 14″ widescreen LED travel monitor.  Available on Amazon for under $200.

Looking for a fast, simple solution for installing apps on your new computer?

Try Ninite – directly download the most commonly used Web apps with no muss, no fuss.

proMeet the new scanner on the block

Everyone knows about the Fujitsu Scansnap s1500, but meet the new and improved kid on the block:  the Fujitsu Scansnap iX500. Bundled with Adobe Acrobat Standard, supports scanning to iOS and Android devices, improved resolution, and improved paper handling.  A work horse for under $500.  Ideal for most solos or as a supplementary scanner deployed at workstations throughout your office.

Stop carpal tunnel in its tracks

To avoid carpal tunnel, your keyboard must be appropriately positioned for your use. 3M offers quality keyboard trays that do the trick for around $160.

Why is your fillable form blank?

To “lock in” the contents of a fillable form, you must flatten the PDF.  Here’s how in Acrobat 9.  In Acrobat X or later, use an action.

Tip Grab Bag

Shopping for the best cloud service to backup your data?imagesCAVCNTYX

Visit Backup Review or follow the site on Twitter @backupreview – new reviews daily.

Splash happens.  Want to waterproof your iPhone?

Not a bad idea since water damage voids the warranty.  Try Liquipel.

Are you on LinkedIn

Did you know that you can reposition the components of your LinkedIn profile to feature preferred content? By default, Experience, Skills & Expertise, and Education appear “below the fold” after Activity and Background.  If you prefer a different sort order, simply drag and drop.

Many thanks to the 60 Tips in 60 Minutes presenters for all these great ideas

All Rights Reserved – Beverly Michaelis – 2013

Filing Client E-Mail

Three years ago I conducted a twtpoll asking for feedback on how law firms file client e-mail.  I wanted to know:

  • Who files the e-mail in your office – lawyers or staff?
  • How is it filed – electronically or in paper form?

The results were mixed.  Here are some of the comments I received:

  • “Attorneys are supposed to file (e-mails) in Time Matters, but they end up in folders in Outlook, junking up the e-mail memory.”
  • “Lawyer (solo) files e-mail in Clients’ Outlook folders.”
  • “We use Gmail … and use search to find (messages).”
  • “We label e-mails with appropriate matter/client name in Gmail and archive or backup as needed.”
  • “E-mails are printed and placed in the client’s file.”

These answers illustrate four common problems:

  • Law firms using Web mail are not filing client e-mail on their local hard drive or server.
  • Lawyers are treating Outlook and Gmail folders as a filing cabinet for e-mail.
  • No one is really addressing the issue of who should be filing client e-mail (if filed electronically).
  • Gasp!  Some people are still printing e-mail!

Three years later, I would love to report: problem solved!  But firms continue to struggle with this task.  Therefore, here is a reprise of my original post with additional suggestions on how to properly process and retain client e-mail.  (Spoiler: Keeping it in your inbox is not the answer.)

E-Mail Must Be Properly Filed

E-mail should be segregated by client and saved electronically in the same network or local folder where Pleadings, Correspondence, Research, etc. are stored.  Create a specific subfolder within the client’s main folder, or include e-mail in Correspondence.  Use inbox organizers, filing assistants, and other techniques to make the process easier.

Storing e-mail with other client documents allows you to have a complete electronic record that everyone in the firm can access.  When e-mail sits in your inbox, no one else working on the case can see it, and no one else will know what is going on.   As you accumulate more and more messages, your inbox becomes bloated.  Merely archiving or backing up e-mail is not an ideal solution for several reasons:

  1. E-mails may be archived in their original HTML format which typically consumes more space than e-mails preserved as .txt  or .pdf files.
  2. Attachments may or may not be captured by archiving.
  3. The archive may reside in the cloud – not the end of the world, but the whole idea here is to maintain a local copy of your client e-mail communications.
  4. If you need e-mails pertaining to a particular client, you will have to restore the entire archive or backup.  This is time-consuming, space-consuming, and will involve work on your part to sort, search, and identify the specific messages for which you are looking.

Decide Who Should File Messages

Solos with No Staff

If you are a solo practitioner with no staff, you will be filing your own e-mail.  I recommend the “file as you go” approach.  As you receive or send client e-mail, save it immediately into the client’s electronic folder on your hard drive or server and delete the copy in your inbox.  If this gives you pause, then create client folders in your e-mail program as a temporary holding place.  Let me repeat that:  temporary holding place.  I understand many attorneys like to leave e-mail in their e-mail program because they find it easier to work with.  I can live with that. For a time. But at some point you should create a routine to move e-mail messages out of your e-mail folders into the client’s electronic folder on your computer.  There are many ways to do this easily and efficiently.

Solos with Staff; Law Firms

If you have staff, or are in a firm, you have other choices.

Option 1:  Forward e-mail to your secretary or assistant for electronic filing

Pros:  Forwarding e-mail means you stay in control.  Private or confidential firm e-mails remain in your inbox.  Only client e-mail is forwarded, with the benefit of keeping your staff person in the communication loop.

Cons:  You remain in control of your inbox.  If you aren’t good about forwarding messages, it defeats the purpose of this approach.  In addition, your IT Department may not appreciate such a scheme.  Every time you forward an e-mail, three copies exist:  the original that hit your inbox, the copy you forwarded, and the forwarded message received by your secretary or assistant.  Unless you are diligent about deleting the first two, your firm will be storing all three.

Option 2:  Give your secretary or assistant full access to your inbox

Pros:  If you give staff access, the e-mail will get filed.  Staff and others will be in the communication loop.  If you don’t want to be bothered with filing your own e-mail or forwarding it, this may be the approach for you.

Cons:  Staff will have to wade through a lot of messages to tackle this task.  Firms who choose this option must refrain from sending sensitive information to attorneys via e-mail.  As an alternative, confidential documents such as employee evaluations or law firm financial statements can be posted in a secure place on the server accessible only to those who have permission rights.

No matter which approach you use, here are some additional tips to make the process go more smoothly:

Train Staff

Make sure staff understand their role in filing e-mail – whether they do so directly from your inbox, or upon receipt when you forward messages.  If the “people” part of this process fails, you may end up with no record of your electronic correspondence.

Keep Personal E-Mail Out Of Your Business Account

Many lawyers and staff are already overwhelmed by the amount of e-mail they must process.  Slogging through personal e-mail in addition to business e-mail makes it more difficult to find critical, time-sensitive messages.

Keep personal e-mail personal.  Doing so will save space on your business server, protect your privacy at work, and prevent business e-mail from bouncing back to the sender because your inbox is full of personal messages.

Zap the Spam

Use a spam filter to keep the garbage out of your inbox.  Postini, MailWasher, POPFile, Spamfence, Spamihilator, and K9 are all good products.  (Remember to check your quarantine summaries daily in case your spam filter is holding back a legitimate message.)

Take Back Your Inbox by Unsubscribing

If you order software or products online, you have probably acquired e-mail subscriptions you don’t want or need.  Sure, you can delete these messages from your work e-mail – just as you delete spam – but wouldn’t it be better if you never saw the messages at all?  The truth is that deleting e-mail means reading e-mail – or at least skimming through your inbox.  Talk about a time waster!  Get serious about unsubscribing!  “Constant contact” updates and broadcast e-mail product announcements have Unsubscribe links – usually at the bottom of the e-mail message.  Look for the link and click to get off these lists.  As you shop online in the future, use your personal e-mail (not your business e-mail) for purchases.  (Or better yet, set up a separate free e-mail account used exclusively for online shopping.)  The goal is to reduce your business e-mail to only those messages that relate to your law practice.

Don’t  Use (Outlook) Rules to “File” Client E-Mail

Don’t get me wrong.  Rules definitely serve a purpose.  I use rules (based on domain name) to direct Listserv messages to designated folders.  You can use rules to copy and forward all e-mail coming from a court domain to your assistant so he or she is copied on court notices.   What doesn’t work is relying on rules to “file” client e-mail.  Even if you were willing to suffer the tedium of creating a rule based on each client’s e-mail address, client’s don’t always use the same account to communicate with their lawyers.  And of course, trying to base a rule on a subject line is impossible.  How many times have you received (or sent) an e-mail with NO subject line?  Or continued an e-mail thread based on a subject line that ran its course?  Rules require consistency to work properly, and subjects lines don’t offer that security.  In addition, Rules created while you are connected to your office Network typically don’t run when using Outlook Web Access or similar remote access apps.

Get Your E-Mail Off the Web

I find it ironic that folks who are leery of cloud computing (SaaS) don’t give their Hotmail, GMail, or Yahoo!  accounts a second thought.

When you leave e-mail on a Web server, your confidential client data is not entirely under your control.  If your provider’s server is down, or you can’t get on the Internet, you can’t get to your information.  Macs and PCs both ship with e-mail programs.   Poke around.  I guarantee a preloaded program is available on your computer.  Set it up to download your Web mail.  This doesn’t cost you a dime.  Go to your Web mail’s Help page and search for instructions on how to download Web mail to your specific program.  For Google, log in to Gmail, click on Help, and click on POP under “Other Ways to Access Gmail.”  Google offers instructions for setting up Apple Mail, Outlook Express, Outlook 2002, 2003, and 2007, Thunderbird, Windows Mail, the iPhone, and other mail clients.

Once you are downloading e-mail to a local program on your computer, you can save it, print it to PDF, or at least archive it locally (my least preferred method of saving e-mail – see the issues discussed above).  Remember:  the idea is to sort e-mail by client, get it out of your inbox, and into the client’s file on your network or local hard drive.

If you absolutely, positively, cannot be persuaded to download your Web mail, then I strongly recommend you print messages to PDF.  If you don’t own and can’t afford Adobe Acrobat, then download a free PDF writer.   As you open and read each Web mail message, simply “print” it to your PDF printer and save it on your hard drive or server in the client’s electronic folder.

Copyright Beverly Michaelis 2012

Postscript

I’m proud to say I took my own advice this past summer.  After “doing as I say,” I cut incoming e-mails in half.

The Best of ABA TECHSHOW 2011

Whew!  ABA TECHSHOW is in the record books for another year.  I enjoyed the Keynote and EXPO – always good to see product demonstrations and meet new vendors. And the weather was a welcome break for those of us who have yet to experience spring.  As always, there is much to enjoy in Chicago by way of art, architecture, and museums. All In all, it was a perfect Silver Jubilee. 

If you were following along, I live-tweeted these sessions:

Just click the links above to access my “Live Tweet Review” from each of these presentations – sans the hash tags, Twitter feed clutter, and occasional typo.

Hey – I sent well over 100 tweets using my iPhone with 3GS, not bad for a butterfingers – and you got to stalk (I mean follow) my whereabouts on Foursquare.

But what I really want to do now is share my favorite tips from 60 x 2, otherwise known as “60 Sites in 60 Minutes” and “60 Tips in 60 Minutes.”  So without further ado:

All Things iPad

  • Take notes on your iPad using a handwriting app. Try PenUltimate ($1.99) – choose from three different pens, writes in color, uses photorealistic paper, saves notes to PDF.
  • Looking for a killer iPad case and keyboard?  I know I want this leather iPad case from Brookstone with Bluetooth keyboard.
  • Want to view, edit, and sign PDFs on your iPad?  Try the ultra-cool SignMyPad for $3.99.  Visiting a client outside the office?  Capture signatures on fee agreements with SignMyPad, and then e-mail the signed contract to yourself and the client.
  • Just bought the new iPad2 and still learning how to use it?  Subscribe by e-mail or RSS to Josh Barrett’s Tablet Legal blog and learn all there is to know.  (Another favorite of mine: iPhone J.D.)

Automate Certified Mailings

Can the Spam

  • Everybody hates spam (junk e-mail that is, not the food).  One way to nip it in the bud is to use a free, disposable e-mail address.  Give it to vendors or use it for sites that require an e-mail registration when you don’t wish to provide your “real” e-mail address.  Spamgourmet was recommended at TECHSHOW.  Alternatively, if you want to keep your “real” e-mail address, but mask it from spammers try scr.im.  This free tool keeps your e-mail address invisible and stops spam bots dead in their tracks.

Collaboration

  • Looking for a way to better collaborate with in-house counsel?  It’s Legal OnRamp to the rescue.
  • Start using Web conferencing services like GoToMeeting (or my favorite: WebEx which supports audio over VoIP, toll, or toll-free numbers, video conferencing, desktop sharing, recording and collaboration over a secure connection.)  For what purpose you ask?  There are many, but one suggested at TECHSHOW – use Web conferencing to meet with your experts before they put pen to paper and write reports.

Download Online Videos

  • Download online videos to store locally on your computer with Zamzar or KeepVid. (Without these services, you can’t pull content down from You Tube.)

eFax Services

  • Want fax capability without the hassle and expense of maintaining a separate machine?  Use an eFax service like EasyLink or Fax2Mail. Send and receive faxes as PDFs, view faxes as e-mail attachments, accessible anywhere, keep your personal fax number if desired. (My suggestion:  Compare eFax services here.)

eSignatures

File Sharing and Sending

  • Dropbox was all over TECHSHOW.  It was mentioned at almost every session I attended.  If you’ve been living in an undisclosed location recently and don’t know what all the hub-bub is, here’s the scoop: Dropbox is a simple, easy, FAST way to store, sync, and share files online.  Initial storage of 2GB is free.  Get more by referring others or buy storage to suit your needs.  I’m a huge fan.  I have Dropbox on three desktops, my iPhone, and my husband’s iPad. In fact, I just used it to transfer and share my TECHSHOW photos taken with my iPhone.  A great way to collaborate, work on documents remotely or share documents with clients and others.  Want another file sharing option?  Try Ge.tt or SkyDrive.
  • If you don’t want to use Dropbox and wish to send a large file directly to a client, then you’ll need a file sharing service.  Consider the tried-and-true YouSendIt.  (I recommend you also take a look at the newer kid on the block: SendNow from Adobe.)
  • Use FileGenius to offer clients file transfer capability on your Web site without setting up an Extranet.  Sign up for the service, set up a link on your Web site, then send the link to your clients.  All they have to do is click and enter a username and password.  Once clients are on your site, they can view and transfer documents.  Starts at $159/month for 20GB of file space.  Free trial available.

Humor

Keeping Up with Technology

Legal Research, Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, Articles and More

Marketing and Web Sites

  • Ever wish there was You Tube for the legal profession?  There is.  It’s called Legal Tube.
  • Analyze your Web site at no charge with Webmastercoffee and fix what doesn’t work.

Miscellaneous Good Stuff

Money

Online Annotation and Bookmarking

Outlook

  • Are you an Outlook user?  Do you ever wish you could streamline saving attachments to your hard drive?  Try EZDetach from Techhit. This Outlook addin allows you to save attachments from one or more messages (or folders) with a single mouse click.  $39.95 with 30 day risk-free trial.  While you’re at the Techhit site, be sure to take a look at their entire suite of Outlook utilities.  I couldn’t live without SimplyFile, the intelligent filing assistant.  And unlike other Outlook addins, I haven’t experienced major program conflicts requiring me to abandon or uninstall the product.
  • Wish you could bypass the Recycle Bin and permanently delete Outlook e-mail?  Use <Shift> <Delete.> 

PDF

Presentations: Beyond PowerPoint

  • Need to create a presentation?  No one wants to “read” your slides.  Ditch the text and get creative with tips and video blog posts from Presentation Zen.
  • Maybe you’ve got the “Zen” of it down, but you’re looking for a cloud-based presentation tool?  If so, try 280 Slides or Prezi.

Scheduling

Security

Social Networking

  • Social networking eating up too much of your time?  Turn it off for a while with Anti-Social (Mac users only) or Freedom (supports Windows and Mac.)
  • What are they saying about you in the cloud?  What did you post?  Find out using social search engine greplin.  (Register for free, premium accounts available.)

Smart Tricks

Summarize and Examine Text

  • Condense, examine, combine, and summarize text quickly with Topicmarks.  Sort of a “crib notes” for readers.  Receive your summary by e-mail.  Easily set parameters to control summary length.  Accounts are free.

Travel

  • Tired of Expedia or Orbitz? Get hip with Hipmunk.  Rated as “fantastic and surprisingly usable” by Lifehacker. Hipmunk has a helpful blog with travel tips, news, and insights as well as a “Pedestrian’s Guide to the USA.”  If you’re an iPhone user, check out the app.
  • If you are a frequent traveler, then you also may want to know about MedjetAssist – medical evacuation from (almost) anywhere in the world.  Recommended this year and previously at TECHSHOW, it can literally be a lifesaver.

 Voice to E-Mail and Call Recording

Windows 7

  • Help! Windows 7 no longer shows me the full path of the current folder and file in the address bar! No worries, the solution is just a mouse click away!  Right click any part of the address bar and choose Edit Address.  Copy and paste the path as desired.
  • Still trying to wrap your head around the many features of Windows 7?  PC World offers Windows 7: A Complete Survival Guide.

Final Thoughts

If you haven’t been to the ABA TECHSHOW before, I hope you come sometime.  Save the date for next year: March 29-31, 2012.  Register early and take advantage of the Professional Liability Fund program promoter code to save money.  (Details will be posted on the News page of our Web site at the end of 2011/beginning of 2012.)  Meanwhile, enjoy this glimpse of Chicago.  Hope to see you there in 2012!

Copyright 2011 Beverly Michaelis