Technology is eating everything—including law. From legal research to document review, litigation support to jury screening, there’s software emerging in just about every part of law practice.
It’s all in hopes of working more efficiently, mitigating risks, and providing clients with a better experience.
But there’s one outlier that hasn’t seen much innovation: Email. It’s the very tool you use to communicate externally with clients and communicate internally with teammates, but it’s remained relatively untouched for 30 years.
Plus, from 2020 to 2021, the challenges with the largest shifts among law firm attorneys were retaining talent, attorneys feeling overworked, lack of personnel to handle the current workload, and low office morale. Since teams are in email all day, every day, improving email is an easy way to improve your team’s day-to-day experience.
Here are 4 ways to make email your secret weapon for law firms and legal services.
1. Cut down on email volume.
Teams across all industries are drowning in email—and law is no exception. In a study of more than 2,000 workers across the US, 68 percent said the number of emails they’ve sent and received has risen over the last three years.
Getting email under control can free up time and allow you to do better work for clients and take on more clients per person on your team.
Most teams depend on individual email inboxes and distribution lists to manage communications with clients. Moving to a shared inbox model can fix this and cut down on volume significantly, so your team isn’t drowning. We’ll share more on this in the next point below.
2. Improve visibility into important emails.
As an attorney, paralegal, case coordinator, or any other role in law, you know that working on client cases requires highly specific knowledge of their business, situation, or past relationship with your firm. Most firms want to drive repeat clients and expand business within existing clients. To create continuity, it’s ideal to be able to see the complete history of your communication with any given client. But the problem is…this is very hard to do when the client has been emailing individuals at the firm or is emailing a distribution list.
The fix? Instead of depending on individual inboxes and distribution lists, move to shared inboxes.
Shared inboxes will cut down on duplicate messages, give visibility and shared context across the team into messages with clients. It also creates transparency for anyone helping with the case, without piling up individual inboxes and overloading individuals.
The best part? This trickles down to result in an overall better client experience.
3. Automate tedious tasks in your inbox.
The average worker spends 28 percent of their work week on email—that’s more than 11 hours a week. Attorneys, paralegals, or anyone in legal practice are likely spending a whole lot more than that.
Gmail and Outlook allow some basic automation functionality for triggering actions like moving or labeling messages. But the workflows required for practicing law are more complex than that.
For instance, SLA adherence is very important for many law firms. But traditionally, it’s extremely difficult to track. You’re left wondering: am I dropping the ball? Is my team dropping the ball? That’s a stressful experience for everyone, and your client often suffers as a result: the client starts a fire drill when they don’t get a prompt response. If the SLA is contractual, you might face a financial penalty or fine for being late.
This kind of issue shouldn’t be plaguing law firms—it’s all about fixing the way email is managed and streamlining workflow efficiencies.
4. Establish clear accountability over emails.
If you’re using a distribution list or group alias to manage emails from clients, there’s no way for your team to know who’s responsible for replying to an email. Two problems usually occur:
Your team sends duplicate replies—maybe even with different answers
Or, no one replies because everyone thinks (or hopes) someone else has already replied
Your client relationship suffers as a result, and clients lose trust in your firm.
Our friend the shared inbox is helpful here again: with clear accountability over emails, there’s no confusion over who should reply. Shared inboxes are again helpful for this, so you can assign a clear owner to every email.
Lastly, almost everyone is intimately aware that law can be a stressful profession. Your team doesn’t need email accountability as an added daily stress. With more clarity, everyone is confident in what they need to be doing and what they’re responsible for. They can focus on what they do best: giving your clients the best possible experience and outcome.
Earn client trust for the long haul by optimizing your firm’s email
Learn how law firms and legal services can deliver an excellent client experience with shared inboxes in Front.
Written by Emily Hackeling
Originally Published: 21 January 2022