E-MAIL in law firms: a case in point

In order to provide archiving capability, LegalKEY Records Management has been integrated with Symantec Enterprise Vault, an intelligent archiving platform. E-mail is moved to Symantec Enterprise Vault, where it is captured, indexed and stored, reducing the burden on Microsoft Exchange servers and document management systems.

“If multiple copies of an e-mail were sent and subsequently declared as records,” continues Thawani, “the system can identify them as duplicates, and will then store only one copy with each contributor identified.” Metadata for each e-mail remains associated with the message, facilitating search during e-discovery.

E-mails in process

Although e-mail management most often refers to the incorporation of messages into a document or records management system, more broadly it can entail integration with business processes. Many business activities are initiated by the receipt of an e-mail that authorizes work to begin or requests information. If those messages stay in the recipient’s inbox, they may be lost to the enterprise, ignored or forgotten. When relevant e-mail messages are integrated into business processes, not only do they provide an audit trail, but they also can be included in metrics that provide indications of business performance.

Michael Best & Friedrich first implemented a business process management (BPM) system to automate its new matter intake process. The goal was to replace a paper-based system in which intake forms were routed manually for review and approval. The firm selected Metastorm BPM as a way to make the process more efficient. Over time, additional processes were added to the system, and others are in progress. For example, it is being linked with the firm’s time and billing system, Thomson Elite. When a new matter is opened in Metastorm BPM, the appropriate information will automatically be put into Elite. The firm is now in the process of linking Interaction, a relationship management product to the intake process as well.

Metastorm BPM allows e-mail correspondence to be initiated from within the form. “If an attorney needs to notify someone that action is required on a matter, then an e-mail can be sent from our BPM system,” says Peter Ferr, director of IT at Michael Best & Friedrich. “The message will reside in Outlook, as it normally would, but also becomes part of the Metastorm system.”

In the past, when employees might have carried out the same action through a phone call, no record of the correspondence would be kept unless it was a paper document attached to the form. Even if a message were sent, it would not have become part of a formal workflow that could be verified or measured.

Michael Best also includes e-mails of record in its document management system, Worldox. Through Worldox, attorneys can view documents in a matter-centric vantage point, seeing all the material that relates to a case, whether the document is a word processing file, spreadsheet, e-mail, image or voicemail.

E-mails managed as documents or integrated into a formal workflow will be far more useful than they would be in an inbox on a local drive or Exchange server. Once made part of an enterprise software solution, they can be searched, included as part of a 360-degree view of a client matter, or used in measuring response time. If left in the inbox, they’re just messages.

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