11 Email Productivity Tips for Attorneys and Paralegals

Today’s digital world bombards us with communication from every side.  We still have regular old United States Post Office mail currently delivered Monday – Saturday.  We have email from multiple email addresses.  We get direct messages from LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and any other social media network to which you belong.  We have instant messages, online chats, home phone and office phone voicemail systems, smartphones, texting, desktops, laptops, and iPads.  Is it ever going to end?  Probably not!!

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A New Breed: Virtual Paralegals

Much discussion has taken place in recent months concerning the topic of virtual paralegals.  This new phenomenon – or at least this new terminology – has taken the legal profession by storm.

Traditionally, freelance paralegals and temp paralegals came to the law firm’s office to help out during overload seasons or to fill in while someone was on vacation or sick-leave.

Technological advances and our current economic times have merged and given birth to a new breed:  The Virtual Paralegal.  The terms freelance paralegals and virtual paralegals are sometimes used interchangeably. Both  usually work independently on an as-needed basis.   Both build professional networks and negotiate fees for services rendered.

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The Virtual Paralegal Trust Factor

I came across a great discussion question today on a Virtual Paralegal LinkedIn Group sponsored by Chere Estrin, Editor-in-Chief at SUE Magazine for Women Litigators.

I suspect this question will inspire a flurry of responses by virtual paralegals and virtual assistants across the country.  “We” are as passionate about our profession as the attorneys with whom we work.

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PARALEGAL TIDBIT: Use effective tools when creating a Table of Authorities for your legal brief.

When I decided to start my own independent business to provide virtual paralegal services to licensed U.S. attorneys, one of the things which excited me most was the realization that as my own boss, I would control which tools I use to provide professional services in my area of expertise.

I have experienced firsthand that law firms often try to save money by using outdated software or cutting corners by failing to adequately train staff with the software programs the firm has chosen.   That lack of training lands closer to the bulls-eye when attorneys themselves begin using desktop and laptop computers without investing some dedicated time for proper training.  This mindset actually robs attorneys and their law firms of hard-earned profits rather than saving them money. Here is an example.

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Planning for Support in Rollercoaster Times

“Litigation can be a rollercoaster. Several cases may come in a flurry, or none may arise for several months.  Maintaining staff for the peak periods can be a sizable ongoing cost for salaries and benefits.  On the other hand, not having people when needed can result in overlooking crucial information, making mistakes, or missing deadlines.” (It’s Discovery Time — Do You Know Where Your Electronic Data Is? Michael J. Connor, Contributor, Litigation Support TODAY, November 2009/January 2010)

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PARALEGAL TIDBIT: Dismissal is not always a good thing.

If you are the Plaintiff’s counsel, the word “dismissed” is not always a good thing to hear, especially if it is combined with the words “for want of prosecution”.  Some attorneys – and their clients – react more strongly to this occurrence than others.  So, just how does this occur and what does it mean?

For decades, courts have made a practice of cleaning up inactive cases on the docket by setting those cases for “dismissal for want of prosecution.”  For whatever reason, the case has been sitting on the docket inactive for a period of time.  The court sets up a dismissal docket with a list of all the inactive cases, and notice is given to all the attorneys of record.    If neither Plaintiff nor Defendant shows good cause for the case being retained on the docket in the manner designated by that particular court, then the Court would dismiss the case and remove it from its list of active cases.

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PARALEGAL TIDBIT: Disclaimer forms deserve our attention.


Have you ever noticed that everyone seems to have a different disclaimer and confidentiality notice which they use on emails and fax cover sheets?  I recently began collecting the forms which come to me through email via direct email, list serves, or other sources.  Needless to say, they vary widely in form.

When I returned to the legal profession in 2008, I was shocked that the small firm I worked for had no “uniform” disclaimer which everyone in the firm used.  I was told to pick one I liked and start using it.  If the disclaimer form is of any use, then it deserves a little time and attention.

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Research Apps for Legal Professionals: The Secret’s Out!


Last week’s post by Sally Kane at About.com’s Guide to Legal Careers brought to my attention several iPhone apps designed for high productivity legal professionals.  The iPhone commercial claims there is an app for almost everything you could possibly need, “There’s an app for that!” After reading Sally’s report, I’m beginning to believe that may just be true. If it doesn’t already exist, tell someone your idea and before you know it, you might just have what you need.  The list of available applications for smartphones and web browsers grows by leaps and bounds every month.

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