This week's winner comes from Fried Frank's New York office.
Janice MacAvoy, Litigation Partner, and Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, Litigation Associate (with additional credit to former associate Sherita Walton and summer associate Steven Star) penned an article entitled Think Twice Before You Hit The Send Button! Practical Considerations In the Use of Email.
They kick off the article with a variation of a quote that I use a lot when talking to audiences about using the Internet:
Don't send an email unless you would be happy to see it on the front page of a newspaper -- or all over the Internet.Excellent advice. By the way, my variation is "don't post anything on the Internet that you wouldn't want your Managing Partner or your Grandmother to see." Basically a variation of what should be called "The Golden Rule of Internet Communications."
We all have heard anecdotal stories of how email has landed employees in hot water, but this article backs up those anecdotes with some citations to actual cases where lawyers violated client confidentiality, employees were fired for inappropriate emails, and where inadvertent "reply-all" clicks landed the email on the front pages of major newspapers. The citations will help prove the issues surrounding lax email policies to attorneys that don't believe anything has actually happened until and appellate court has written about it.
Mac Avoy and Espinoza-Madrigal lay out ten steps that every law firm should teach its attorneys and staff:
- Take Steps to Protect Confidential Information
- Preserve Client Privilege in Emails
- Treat Every Email Like a Substantive Memo to Client
- Review All of Your Emails Before Sending Them
- Think About the Timing of Your Email
- Maintain an Accurate Record in Email
- Consider Whether a Phone Call Would be More Appropriate
- Take Care Regarding Your Recipient
- Maintain Appropriate Record Retention Practices with Email
- Use Good Email Etiquette
All of these are common sense items that we should all remember, but tend to forget because we become too comfortable with shooting off an email without thinking of which of these 10 rules have we broken.
I suggest that you pass this article along to your training staff and have them use it as an outline for training (and re-training) attorneys and staff on the practical use of email.