Editor’s note: So you have just landed a role as a lawyer in a law firm and they have thrown you in front of a computer and expect you to deliver on all assigned tasks.
The only email suite you are familiar with is Yahoo mail, maybe Google mail. We don’t blame you; you were not taught how to use Outlook at university or Law School, and it was not (adequately) covered during your orientation at your new law firm.
Fear not! Legally Engaged is here to help. In this article, Gabriella Ndu shares tips to help you stay on top of your work by organizing your emails more effectively.
If you have any questions on any of the tips or issued raised, remember that there is a wealth of information available for free on the internet. As they say, Google is your friend.
Emails are essential to work life but a lawyer, especially a transactional lawyer, may receive more emails than he/she can manage. If not managed properly, emails can break your concentration, cause you to make errors on important tasks, miss deadlines and/or interfere with your work-life balance.
Below are seven tips on how to organize your work email inbox in order to save time and work effectively
1. Spring clean your inbox
During your spare time, look through emails that are currently in your inbox. Delete any emails that you do not read regularly or find valuable. Create rules for newsletter subscriptions using the tip no. 4 of this article.
2. Create storage folders
Good organization is the key to a manageable mailbox. Organizing mail into folders and archives will make it easier to find the old messages and reduce the size of your mailbox. Creating storage folders for each client, file or project makes it easy to refer to messages relating to that client or file.
3. Prioritise your emails and use “action folders”
When checking your inbox, reply to messages that can be dealt with quickly (in two minutes or less), then delete them if possible or move them to the appropriate storage folder.
For messages that require some thought, send a quick reply acknowledging that you’ve received the message and indicating that you will respond as soon as possible. Flag the email as a task in your calendar or put these e-mails in “action” folders, for example, “Urgent,” “Important” and “Not Important.” Just click on the message header and drag and drop the message into the folder.
In addition, you can set a reminder to in your calendar to respond to the email properly. Action folders can also be used for “follow up emails” to clients.
4. Create Rules or use filters to sort out incoming messages
Use the Rules feature of your e-mail program to automatically sort incoming messages into folders. Incoming e-mails can automatically be sorted by sender, subject, text and other filters. For example, if you subscribe to a newsletter or are on a list which always has “Legal News” in the subject line, e-mails can automatically be removed from your Inbox and placed in the appropriate folder.
This video tutorial will show you how to create Rules to automatically divert incoming messages to a folder of your choice using Outlook.
5. Move “to-do” and event e-mails to your calendar
If an e-mail requires you to carry out a task like researching an issue or reviewing an agreement, drag and drop the e-mail to the “to-do” or task list on your Outlook. The e-mail will appear in the details window for the task.
If the e-mail schedules an appointment or event, drag and drop the e-mail to your electronic calendar. The subject line of the e-mail will show up as the description of the appointment (but you can change this if necessary), and the e-mail will show up in the appointment details.
6. Use message templates
Create draft messages for routine emails. In Outlook, to save a draft of a message to use as a template (for example, an acknowledgement of a received e-mail), type the message in a new window, leaving the To (recipient) line blank. Then select File, Save As, and name the template in the subject line. To use the draft message, open the Drafts folder, and copy and paste the contents of the saved draft message into your new e-mail. Doing this will save you a lot of time and energy.
7. Create group mailing lists
If you frequently communicate with the same group of lawyers on a project, you could create a distribution list for this group in Outlook. When you intend to send a message to everyone, you can click on the click on the name of the group list rather than each individual lawyer.
If you have any additional tips on how you have been able to manage emails, please share them in the comment section below.
Gabriella Ndu is a corporate, energy and projects lawyer with experience advising on traditional and renewable energy projects, facility management services, cross-border mergers and acquisitions, project finance and corporate transactions across Africa, Middle East, GCC, and South Asia. She is a law graduate of the University of Nigeria and was called to the bar in 2014.
She is currently a candidate of the Career Development Program at Middle East, South Asia & Turkey office of ENGIE, a CAC40 company with her first role in the legal team.