Emails and Client Expectations

Tsunami, blizzard, avalanche, flood, plague. There are many ways to describe the volume of emails that hit your Inbox every day. One aspect of the problem that is created by the flood is managing the clients’ expectations. Intellectually they might appreciate that you have more than one client and are busy but, intuitively, they expect a reply to their emails almost immediately. Here is one way to provide that reply and yet maintain the right to manage your own priorities in a meaningful way.

You know how to create a Signature in your email app – and it does not have to be just your name and address. Create this Signature:

I will have to take a look at this and get back to you in the next few days. If there is some urgency that I have overlooked, please let me know.


Yours truly

Once you add a Dear X, away it goes. The client is happy – you read his email! You are happy – you can reply substantively later, without rushing, and avoid putting what might be a low priority task ahead of something that is Urgent and Important. All it took was a couple of key strokes to send that Signature.

Of course, having given yourself time to reply, you must reply. Make sure you have a system in place to ensure that gets done. I like the 4D system: Do, Defer, Delegate, Dump. Take a look at a great article by Sheila Blackford in the Oregon State Bar Bulletin archives entitled Managing your Email.

-Barney (Bjorn) Christianson


  1. I love the task function in Outlook to follow-up on emails from clients. I just drag the email to the task folder. It automatically opens a task and I just have to select a date and then save it. This works especially well when the email does not relate to an open matter in our file management system.

    I think more lawyers should use the task function in Outlook. Most do not seem to know it exists. I also use it extensively to keep track of administrative deadlines like insurance filings, bank reconciliations, employee tax remittances, etc.

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