Tips for Delivering CI via Email

Social media advocates predict the end of email but, while it is always interesting to consider new, improved ways to disseminate intelligence, most law firms are not likely to drop email any time soon.

Scenario: A litigation partner is leaving for a lunch with a target client and needs intelligence on the company, person, opportunity, competitors and our relationships within the hour.

It’s nice to imagine that you will have time to conduct an interview to determine the appropriate intelligence topics, perform thorough, in-depth research, develop a complete and insightful analysis, AND format your findings/results into an attractive document.

Or, better yet, you’ll upload your beautiful report to a social, sharable, fully-indexed and dynamic web/portal/SharePoint- or app-based report to distribute to all appropriate members of the practice/industry group or client team. Or, you could do something else even cooler and better..

But, the reality is that it’s all you can do to run the searches, scramble for the necessary analysis and shoot off a quick email for the attorney to read in the back of the cab on her way.

That said, here are some tips to effective intelligence delivery of intelligence via good old-fashioned email.

  • Put important stuff at the top – If you are delivering a handful of answers, put those answers right at top. When laying out your information, just think of a small mobile screen and remember that they won’t get past the first few lines.
  • Keep it short – We learn in school that a paragraph can be between 3 and 5 sentences. But in business emails, you want a double line break between almost every 1-2 sentences, especially if they are longer sentences.
  • Use bullets – In fact, wherever possible, avoid sentences and stick to bullets. Attorneys in particular are very familiar with the outline format and so feel free to group by heading and subheading and keep it very brief. No more than a sentence in length.
  • Double- and triple-proof – Check for common typos, grammar, punctuation etc. The smallest mistakes can undermine your credibility and the entire intelligence product.
  • Attach reports – You can almost assume that most anything attached to the email will be, at best, briefly skimmed and, at worst, completely ignored. If you want the attorney to know something, type it into the email. You might also point out the attachment (“Please see attached…”) and direct them to the page.

I’m sure there are a ton of other good ideas and I hope our commentors will share their tips!