Attorneys were probably the last group of professionals to embrace email. For years they hid behind their assistants and never touched a computer, much less sent or received an email. While I still know a few dinosaurs, for most attorneys today, email is the preferred form of communication.
I love email and the efficiency of communicating by email. My staff teases me that they often receive succinct, one- or two-word email messages from me (Yes. No. Thanks! Do it!). I receive more email than most people in my office and quite frankly, some of it is simply horrific. (I can’t put in writing what comes to mind when reading some of it.) It’s often hard to believe that it was composed and sent by a professional.
With this in mind, I’d like to offer you my top 9 tips for communicating clearly and effectively with your attorney-clients. These tips will keep you from hitting “horrific” status with any of your attorney-clients or prospects.
- Have a proper email address. Email is a business communication and your email address is part of your marketing. [email protected] may be appropriate for your online dating profile but sends the wrong message to attorneys. Go to GoDaddy.com and register your legal nurse consulting business’s name, or a derivative of it as a domain name. Then follow GoDaddy’s simple steps to create an email account. Now you’re [email protected] – much better plus it helps brand your business every time you send an email.
- Use a clear subject line. Many people scan their email box by subject to determine not only the priority of the communication but also whether to classify it as spam or to file it. If you get an email with a subject such as “You need my services,” “A question for you” or “Re: Additional Issues in the Smith Case,” which one do you think you’d open first, if at all? If you don’t know the answer, you’ve got some homework to do. Address your subject clearly and succinctly. Your attorney-recipient should know just from the subject line what your message relates to, its priority and where to file it for later review.
- When possible, keep it short. If it’s a longer communication consider putting it in a letter on your legal nurse consulting company’s letterhead and attach it as a PDF or Word® document so that the attorney-client can print it for the file. Email is great for shorter communications but remember, many people read email in their preview window on their screen or on a cell phone. Shorter messages are easier to comprehend (that’s why the webpages of news organizations are short). If someone has to print your message to understand it, you may as well brand it on letterhead. If I have an important email I’m working on, I’ll often compose it in Word and then cut and paste it into my email. This allows me more control over my thoughts.
- Compose sensitive and important email before filling in the “To” field. Have you ever accidently hit Send before you were ready or before you completed composing your important missive? I know I have. To remedy this, I recommend adding the recipients’ email addresses for the to, cc or bcc fields only when you’re sure you’re ready to send your final email.
- Take a deep breath before replying. Not every email requires an immediate reply, especially one that raises your blood pressure. This is especially important if you haven’t yet cooled off before firing off that terse reply letting the recipient know exactly what you think. Remember, there’s not really an “undo” button and this tip combined with #4 above will help to keep you on good terms with all your attorney-clients and colleagues.
- Don’t use text-messaging slang such as IMHO in a professional communication. Save them for Facebook, Twitter and texting. Remember you’re communicating professionally, not personally.
- DON’T TYPE IN ALL CAPS – that’s still the Internet equivalent of shouting. It’s hard to believe in 2010 I still have to remind people of this. If your “Caps Lock” key is stuck, it’s time to buy a can of air and blow the brownie crumbs out of your keyboard. Here’s a link to Tom’s Tech Tip on cleaning your computer.
- Proof your work. Yes, it sounds too simple but often, due to the perceived informal nature of email, people don’t proof it. I’ve often received email that contains incomplete sentences and thoughts that aren’t fully developed. This is simply because the sender was in a rush to click Send. If it’s an important email, I’ll print it and hand proof it prior to sending. Adhere to basic grammar rules. In today’s world you don’t have to be perfect, but likewise, you don’t want someone labeling you a grammar-barbarian.
- Use a spell checker. Just about every email program has this capability. Make sure you turn it on. What is an attorney going to think of someone who can’t spell simple words or who sends their communications full of typos?
Every day I get email that breaks these rules – some even break all 9 at once! Email is probably your typical form of communication as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant. Make yours a reflection of your professionalism and your email will help you gain attorney-clients, not lose them at “helllo.” Yes, that typo was intentional.
Success Is inside!
P.S. Comment to share which email strategy you will start using today.