For many law firms, their Achilles’ Heel is e-mail. Almost all correspondence is handled electronically, but lawyers around the world have not always been diligent in sending copies of this correspondence to their firm’s records management system. To be fair, most firms I know ask their lawyers to do the right thing, but until recently there has not been technology available to make doing the right thing easy. Now, with the availability of electronic tools that can prompt a lawyer for filing details before sending the message — or, even better, suggest how the e-mail should be filed — firms are on the verge of having accurate, real-time institutional records of their electronic correspondence.
Risk managers at firms will breathe a big sigh of relief when these systems are in place. However, have others considered the impact of having the e-mail collections available at their fingertips? Suddenly, the firm’s communications will move from obscurity to transparency. One obvious consequence is that with centralized access to all the correspondence with a client, a lawyer should have a better understanding of the ongoing conversation between the client and the firm, and should be able to provide better service. And, if lawyers come to see this centralized collection as accurate, complete and reliable, they should over time stop hoarding e-mails in private Outlook folders. This will be another win for client service and firm risk management.
But, have you considered what happens to communications within the firm when all e-mail is retained in a searchable repository? What if there is a complete, centralized record of e-mail correspondence among administrative staff? Will the quality of the support services they provide improve? And, will there be an impact on office politics? Or will the e-mails that record the daily dramas of the life of any human organization be excluded from the drive to transparency?
There are interesting times ahead. Are you ready for your firm to flip the transparency switch?
[Photo Credit: hockadilly]