I have recently been working on a very interesting project that has been about the streamlining delivery of communications with clients and IP offices via e-mail.

For years Inprotech has had useful features for creating correspondence as Word documents but it hasn’t really advanced much in the area of delivery of correspondence by email and managing the workflow around drafting, approval and filing of this type of correspondence to customers.

In order to address this we took a number of steps:

  1. We set up standing instructions against the name record to define the correspondence delivery mechanism for the client eg. by email to the contact, by email to the associates docketing address and copied to the contact, email but paper confirmation, by fax to contact, by fax to the organisation, by mail.
  2. We set up new name relationships for email copies to.
  3. We created a new doc item that worked out the addressing based upon these standing instructions and copies to arrangements.
  4. We then created new doc items that built the email to & cc address lines as well as the email subject line as document variables in the finished document. These variables were then used by a new macro that copied the body of the document into the email body and set up the email subject line and addressing ready to go. The letter signature block was incorporated into a new bookmark that allowed it to be deleted and replaced by the email signature when then email was created.
  5. At the same time the IRN was recorded with the draft email to allow automatic profiling and integration into the firm’s document management system when sent.
  6. Outlook add ins where then developed to allow the email to be automatically sent and saved. The created file using the date and the letter name that had been moved from the document title of the finished document, which corresponded to the name of the letter in Inprotech letter table.
  7. Other add ins were developed to allow filing of non Inprotech emails and, in general, facilities were provided to make moving between the electronic file, Word and Outlook as seamless and with as few clicks as possible.

As this was a long time user of the product, prior to this effort, a project had been put in place to revise the firm’s document templates to use the now standard approach to template set up with a header/footer document and paragraph templates. This meant that all of the above could be built into one or two places, rather than changing approximately 350 documents. Also, all of this has been predicated on using Word as the email text editor.

At the same time we initiated a project that improved our overall approach to the validation of names and address data and, in particular, ensured that email addresses were captured in the Inprotech database for all the required parties. I may write about this in another article if people are interested.

While the above processes give excellent improvements in productivity, the issues that have been highlighted have been more related to policy and related processes:

  • What correspondence should be delivered as an email body and what as an attachment. Should substantive advice be provided on the firm’s letter head with a signature?
  • What if documents are likely to be forwarded by an associate to the end client, does this affect the presentation of the firm to that organisation?
  • What if the recipient doesn’t receive emails in HTML format or uses a different email tool than Outlook? Does this raise concerns as to the presentation quality of our correspondence?
  • How does the packaging of the total piece of correspondence occur? How are incoming documents such as IP office receipts and certificates scanned, filed and attached to the email?
  • If our invoice is to go with the correspondence how is this created, attached and delivered? Is an electronic (PDF) invoice acceptable?
  • Which correspondence is to be signed? Can the PA or support staff apply the signature?
  • Who should send the email? The PA? The PA on behalf of the attorney? The attorney themselves?

I would be interested to get other people’s feedback on how they have approached these issues.