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Email for Legal Professionals

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Kimberly O'Hagan

on 7 November 2012

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Transcript of Email for Legal Professionals

Email for Legal Professionals Subject Line Content
(body) Consider your Audience Greeting The Unintended Audience How will your audience receive your message? Sets the tone. People you don't know (and who don't know you) may end up seeing your message... Factors to consider:
their role
your relationship
their hot buttons
their preexisting beliefs about your topic Use format to help your reader focus. Make sure context is clear. Proofread before you hit send...not only will mistakes interfere with the clarity of your message, but they'll also make you look bad. Keep your reader in mind... Get to the point quickly! Front load your email...starting with the subject line. Do more than summarize the topic...summarize message and action. The Latin word communicare meant to “impart,” “share,” or “make common.” The key root is mun-which relates to “community,” and “meaning.” (Peters, 1999:7). However, there is a “dark side of communication”: the Greek term koinoo like the Latin communicare, means to “make common,” “communicate,” “impart”or “share”; it also means to pollute and make uncertain. (267).

Source: Peters, J. (1999). Speaking into the air: A history of the idea of communication, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. DISCUSS: How effective are these subject lines? 1. Subject: Important! Read Immediately!!

2. Subject: Two Questions re: Finch Contract

3. Subject: Need a Reference

4. Subject: First draft of Coastal Bank memo attached

5. Subject: Need Delta site impact by Friday, 6/1/13 Give your reader a reason to open your email.
Make it easy for recipients to triage your email and find it later.
Avoid confusion: update before you forward (as needed). TIP: Start each subject with a single word that lets the reader know the purpose of your email. 

Action: (an instruction or assignment you’re giving)

Request: (something you’re asking the recipient to get back to you on)

Info: (information you need to convey but which does not require an action from the recipient)

Confirmed: (letting someone know you understand their request)

Delivery: (when you’re providing a deliverable someone else requested of you) APPLYING THE TIP: What signal word could be used to improve the following subject lines?


Will attend meeting re: software upgrade on Jan 7

Need your opinion on whether to strike 3rd paragraph of motion to compel in Glover

PDFs of all Cantelli medical records we have to date

McNulty Medicare app filed this morning, 10:30 Ensure response.
A bad subject line can be confusing or regarded as spam. TONE...
Displays respect.
Establishes formality. A "spectrum" of formality.
How do you determine where to land on the spectrum? Tip #1: Put your most important info/question up front—assume your reader won’t get to the end. When asking a question…ask the question first, explain why later.

When answering a question…adopt memo (including CRuPAC!) to the email format. Remember...
You’re providing a high-level analysis…if the client/partner wants the full memo, s/he’ll request it! Make sure context is clear. Refresh your reader's memory: Why are you writing? Threads can provide valuable history…when used correctly. Reread the thread to ensure sensitive info is not being forwarded. Then…

Reply with history to maintain the thread.

When conversation starts to drift, start a new thread with explanation.

Make sure subject line is accurate. Quote back selectively when replying to long messages.
“Yes, I agree.” is useless without context.

Provide a summary of content when using “see below.” Write in short sentences.
Avoid overuse of commas. Use active voice. Avoid unfamiliar technical terms, abbreviations, acronyms, and legalese.
Keep writing short--apply the “one screen” rule. Write in block format--no indent.
Separate all paragraphs with a line of white space. Rules for effective bullet points:

Make visually symmetrical.

Limit length to 1-2 lines each.

Avoid bullet clutter--too many indents/subpoints are confusing.

Practice parallelism.

Taken from Brian Clark, "Little Known Ways to Write Bullet Points." http://www.copyblogger.com/little-known-ways-to-write-fascinating-bullet-points/ Don't get trashed! Good subject lines: strong, concise, direct

Mediocre subject lines: require additional info--they leave the reader asks "what does that mean?"

Poor subject lines: say too little or too much info--the reader may mistake them for spam. If it's a professional topic, write a professional email...whether it's to your boss or someone you don't care about impressing. All email can be forwarded! Email components:
Restate the question
Outcome determinative facts
Conclusion How do these components correspond to memo/CRuPAC elements? If your subject is necessarily long and complex...use an ATTACHMENT.
Just make sure to alert your reader that there's an attachment and give a "preview" of what it is.
(But beware the smartphone user!) After reading your email, the reader should be able to answer the following:
Why are you writing to me?
What's the gist of your message?
What do you want me to do after I read this email? Major Source:
Natalie Cavanor & Claire Meirowitz, The New Rules of Business Writing. Email Management Best Practices
checking email
acknowledging emails
responding to emails Personal vs. Professional As attorney, be extra careful! http://www.snopes.com/embarrass/email/skadden.asp TIP: Don't fill in the recipient's email address until AFTER you've completed (and proofread!) the email. http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-the-office-hottie-list-thats-sc-2010-11 Keep paragraphs short (< 6 lines). More than six lines? Split it up.
Important information? Make it a one-line paragraph.
Multiple pieces of important information? Make a quick bulleted list. For small questions?

For questions you can’t answer yet (because you don't have the info)?

For complex questions that will require a long answer? Final thought...before you send an email, consider whether it's the right medium for your message!
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