I’ve been in and around law for 25 years, and I’ve seen some epic emails. One, from opposing counsel, claimed that she needed to consult a Ouija board to determine if our team was going to produce an actual witness at the appointed time. Why she would say this, when one partner constantly canceled depositions 15 hours before their start time, I have no idea. But I digress.
The point is, emails can make or break you. I’m not talking about the ones that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the paper. No, I’m talking about how to be memorable to clients and colleagues. You know, how to make an indelible impression.
Here are some of my best email tips. Incorporate them and see what happens!
- Don’t Respond to Emails for Days or Weeks. If you can’t bear to ignore emails from your really lucrative clients, OK. Do what you gotta do. But please, don’t respond to any other emails that inquire about non-billable projects or anything that isn’t a crisis for you. Not even to say that you are snowed under, and will get back to the sender in a couple days or weeks. In particular, do not respond to emails from underlings who need to know key information that only you possess, so that they can proceed with the work you asked them to do to meet the deadline you set for them. It is important to make them stalk you in the hallways, and spend hours waiting outside your office so they can talk to you for 3 minutes.
- When You Respond, Be Wordy and Overly Precise. Remember, you get paid by the hour, and it takes more time to write more words. If clients and others wanted to understand legal issues, they should have gone to law school. Since you’re a good person, though, you will help them by using a thesaurus, and explain that in the event of any dispute, disagreement, argument, conflict, or misunderstanding, etc., they should call you immediately and forthwith.
- Be Sure To Omit Any Context. The fact that it’s been a month since you last communicated about something is irrelevant. So too is the fact that your recipient may have moved on to something else, rather than obsessing daily about what has just morphed into a burning question for you. Just ask the question; they should be able to instantly recall all minutiae surrounding it. If they can’t, that is what the 13 emails back and forth about it are for.
- Social Niceties Are for Ninnies. Don’t waste precious pixels on greetings or closings. Polite inquiries about general wellbeing are also verboten. That’s the beauty of email over phone calls—you don’t need to waste all that time being fake nice. Just get right to the point. Your clients and colleagues aren’t paying you to love them.
- Hit Send When You’re Annoyed and Tired. This works particularly well when corresponding with those you don’t regularly see or interact with. After all, you know they meant to be difficult for no reason. You learned a long time ago that assuming the worst was the only sound way to proceed, and this situation definitely calls for it. Plus, you’re helping people out by pointing out their various mistakes.
(For all of you folks who want to break out of law, or for some inexplicable reason want better client and personal relations, you may need to adapt these tips really slowly. Most people hate change and need time to adjust to the new you.)
Have a question about writing? Contact Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org.