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Email: Blessing & Curse.

Email: Blessing & Curse.

How To Use It. How To Handle It.

Email is everyone's blessing, and everyone's curse. It aids communication, but has an insistence something like a ringing telephone. It seems to require answer on its terms, and not those of the recipient.

Email can be annoying. Many users are informal, incomplete, and inaccurate in email communications. The tendency for many is to treat email as more conversation, not as formal, professional writing.

Domina Law Group uses email formally in its outside-the-office communication. Informality in such communications is not approved.

Using Email: Preventing It from Using You.

Email communication is complicated. First, knowing how to deal with it is a challenge. There are core rules. In many settings, they are called "Netiquette" - the network etiquette or the etiquette of cyberspace.

"Etiquette" means "the forms required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be required in social or official life." Netiquette, therefore, is a set of rules for behaving properly online.

There is no "Robert''s Rules of Order" yet about Netiquette. There may also be no basic manners book. However, these are appropriate rules to remember when writing to or from a professional person:

  1. Think before you type. Respond thoughtfully to questions, and ask questions thoughtfully. Treat email as a letter, not a conversation. Remember that "cyber chat" is not professional writing.
  2. Respect the recipient. Don''t pass on things humorous or amusing to you to professional persons. Be professional. Say what you would say in a formal, traditional letter.
  3. Obey the law. As you do so, respect the media through which you are communicating. False, deceptive, or misleading statements or threats, imparted on the Internet involve the use of interstate commerce. Federal implications can be present.
  4. Elevate the discourse. When you receive email from someone else that lacks formality, respond with formality. Write what is necessary and appropriate, but not more. Where it would make more sense to respond to an email with a dictated or typed, formal letter, do so. Control the response medium yourself.
  5. Store all inbound and outbound email concerning a professional matter in the precisely the same way you would store any other permanent record of contact with a professional person.
  6. Be forgiving of other person''s informality in email, but do not lower yourself to it.

The American Bar Association issued Formal Ethics Opinion 99-413 (www.abanet.org/cpr/fo99-413.html), to pilot the ABA''s guidance on the use of unencrypted email for client communication. Lawyers should acquaint themselves with Formal Opinion - 99-413.

Informal Email

Virginia Shea has written a book called Netiquette. Its core rules, for less formal communication than those considered above, appear at www.albion.com/netiquette/corerules.html.

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