Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Managing EMail - Policy and Practical Options

The panel started off with the David Spade Blackberry Intervention video.

Everyone agreed that we have attorneys like this who need an intervention. But is it a technology problem or a business process problem?

The emphasis is on records management of which email management is a part. One panelists played an internal video showing the dangers of not having good records management for physical records or electronic records.

One firm had a 90 day email retention problem. The email needs to be filed into the email repository within 90 days or it gets deleted. The key is to have the business policy of email retention and then have the technology enforce the policy. Archiving email just defers the problem. They started by deleting emails more than 2 years old, then one year old and then tighter and tighter. The panelist created a legacy email library in iManage. The library is only available to records and not to attorneys. Just in case there was a legitimate need to pull back one of those emails. Those emails are then subject to a ten year retention. They uses Out IM from DocAuto to move the email. The key to success was treating it as a business problem, not as a technology problem. The risk management focus was the strongest selling point.

The other panelist is stuck with the firm not being able to come up with a document retention policy. Then the email overload is a technology problem. They had migrated from a Lotus Notes to an Exchange/Outlook environment. One person had 90,000 messages in his Notes inbox and another with a 20GB inbox in Notes. Those crushed Exchange and Outlook. The push was to move emails out of the inbox and into client/matter folders. Those folders are intended to be a precursor to an email management process. The email system was a de facto document management system. His attorneys also wanted to have all their emails available when portable.

One battle that both panelists had is the push back from attorneys and management that "disk space is cheap!"

One panelist automatically archived email that was over 90 old. They also archived any email over a certain size limit. The archiving allowed them to manage the mailbox size and deal with the technology problems. He found that the firm disclaimers and 230 circular disclaimers ended up taking up a lot of space. He also noticed that the flow of emails is still increasing.

One issue that both panelists mentioned was not just the file size, but the item count in the main outlook boxes. Outlook has a problem when there is more than 5,000 items in a top level folder. The calendar is a particular problem. [I am a diligent filer and got caught with having too many items in my calendar.]

The panel then addressed the benefits to the attorneys. One reason is to make it easier to find the email. The huge inboxes cause slow performance and increases the likelihood to bring the system down. An audience member brought up the collaboration benefit of sharing email. It seems you need a carrot and stick to get email filing. Some will respond to the fear and some will respond to the benefits.

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