Tips for Communication: Email Conventions

This is the first post in a series on tips for communicating with American attorneys. We hope you find this information useful as you continue to work with American attorneys and encourage you to refer back as necessary.

Email has become an important tool in day-to-day communication. In both business and personal settings, we receive, read and write dozens of emails each day. Effective email communication with American lawyers is an important skill to develop because it will allow you to schedule meetings, follow up on projects and even communicate with some courts. It is not a complicated process and is less formal than traditional written communication, but still requires a level of formality and professional decorum. Here are a few tips on the medium:

Use the subject line.

Attorneys receive numerous emails each day, and as a result, they often scan through the subject lines in their email boxes to determine which emails require immediate attention and which can wait. Use the subject line to introduce your email and allow the recipients to properly determine why you are emailing them.

Use the appropriate salutation.

While email is less formal than a typical business letter, initial communication between attorneys via email should always start with “Dear Mr./Mrs. … .” If you develop a more casual relationship with the recipient, it is appropriate to switch to using first names, but allow them to take the lead on the transition.

Be concise.

Email allows more direct communication than a formal business letter, and American attorneys expect that you will get to the point quickly in your emails. A short introduction is appropriate if you have never emailed the person before, but it is not necessary after the first email exchange. As a general rule, do not exceed four or five paragraphs in an email; communication of that length should be done via formal letter or phone call.

Proofread and use proper grammar.

While email is less formal than traditional correspondence, it does not mean that incomplete sentences, SMS-style abbreviations or the use of emoticons is appropriate. Remember: This is still business-related correspondence, and failing to type out a whole word indicates laziness. Ending an email with a smiley face is completely inappropriate and indicates a level of immaturity that you do not want to convey to another attorney.

Use the signature option.

When you are communicating with other attorneys via email, you want to ensure that your discovery privileges are intact and that your emails are not shared with or viewed by people outside the intended recipient. If you are working with a local law firm, they may have a disclaimer they require on all emails. If you are not working with a local office, consider adding a disclaimer to the end of your emails in the signature or disclaimer settings in your email program. For example:

The contents of this email are very likely confidential and privileged. If you have received this email in error or are not its intended recipient, please do not print, copy or disseminate this message or its attachments in any way. If you have received this message in error, please delete it from your computer, and contact XYZ Law Firm at your earliest convenience to advise of the error in transmission. Thank you.

Following these simple guidelines will help you email American attorneys with confidence and will ensure your emails communicate your skill and expertise. In our next post, we will cover tips for successful phone calls with American attorneys.