Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : November 2008

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 TECHNOLOGY TALK:

BY PAT YEVICS  

This month’s Tech Talk will address the value of Email Lists and the proper use and rules of Email Lists and e-mail. I am compelled to do this by some minor (in the big-picture scheme of things) disturbances on some of the MSBA Email Lists.

In the interest of fairness, there are a few facts you must know before going further: 1) I think e-mail is as indispensable a tool to the practice of law as the telephone; 2) I think that using Email Lists can be a very helpful and efficient method for getting answers and sharing information, and 3) I get anywhere from 300-500 e-mail messages each day, many of which are junk mail.

There is
no organization too small or too localized to escape the possibility of a civil or criminal antitrust suit, and the penalties for violating federal or state antitrust laws are severe.

Most of the 27 MSBA Sections have Email Lists that include all (or almost all) of the Section members. Members may “opt out” at any time. They may also rejoin at any time, as long as they are Section members. The Maryland State Bar Association provides these Email Lists as a benefit to its members. The purpose of the Email Lists is to facilitate communication between members of the various committees and sections. The Email Lists are to be used only for the discussion of MSBA-related issues or other legal-related discussions. This allows members who are subscribed to the list the opportunity to type in one address and send the message/question to everyone on the list. In order to get the best results from using these lists, there are some rules that you need to understand and use. The lists have been valuable to many Sections and there have been few problems. Like any group, electronic or otherwise, each list has its own “personality”.

The rules listed below are only a few that will help you and the people with whom you communicate live more efficiently, kindly and courteously in virtual reality.

Rules

Anti-Trust Issues. Do not post queries or information, and refrain from any discussion which may provide the basis for an inference that the members agreed to take action relating to prices, production, allocation of markets, or any other matter having a market effect. Examples of topics which should not be discussed include current or future billing rates, fees, disbursement charges or other items which would be construed as “price”, fair profit, billing rate, or wage level, current billing or fee procedures, and imposition of credit terms. Do not post regarding refusal to deal with anyone because of his/her pricing or fees.

There is no organization too small or too localized to escape the possibility of a civil or criminal antitrust suit, and the penalties for violating federal or state antitrust laws are severe. The government’s attitude toward professional associations requires professional association members (as well as professional associations themselves) to at all times conduct their business openly and avoid any semblance of activity which might lead to the belief that the association members had agreed, even informally, to something that could have an effect on prices, fees or competition.

Sending Messages to the Lists. Watch the subject line carefully. If a subject starts to go off the topic, those replying should indicate that in the subject header. This will allow others to delete messages off topic. It may look like “Subject: Expert Witness – Off Topic”. This indicates the subject matter is no longer Expert Witnesses. It is even better to change the Subject Line to better reflect the topic that is being discussed. This only takes a minute and saves much aggravation for other members on the list.

Do not forward jokes or any other message because you have no idea where it will eventually be received. The Internet allows for very easy forwarding and sending of information. If you would not send out the jokes or message on your firm’s letterhead then do not forward it. Do not send anything via e-mail you do not want seen in public. This should be a rule that you never break. Never.

Do not send messages without something in the Subject box.

Do not use capitals. IT MEANS YOU ARE SHOUTING.

Keep in mind that not everyone on the list is at the same professional level as you. There may be new attorneys looking for some assistance from experienced practitioners; that is one of the advantages of the list. If you can help with an answer, please do so. If you feel that the question is inappropriate, please respond to the person personally or even contact me.

Netiquette. The lists are not a substitute for your own research and work. No one should be asking questions that can be easily answered by simple research. You should always do some research before posting a question.

Sarcasm and humor can often be lost in writing. What you meant as being a joke or humorous in person is completely lost in e-mail. If you are concerned that something might be misunderstood, do not send it.

Please do not scold or chastise anyone on the list publicly. If you feel that a post was inappropriate, please e-mail the person privately. You may also contact me and I will contact the person.

When Replying to Lists. When you participate in a Email List, it is not always necessary to send a reply to the entire list. For MOST MSBA lists, the REPLY TO: default is the author of the original message. If you hit REPLY TO:, it will only go to the person who sent the message. If you think the reply is helpful and would be useful to the entire list, you must hit REPLY TO ALL:.

However, there are some lists, such as Estate & Trust and Elder Law, where the default reply goes to the entire list. If you wish to send the reply to just the sender, when you hit reply, you must delete the address of the list in the TO: line and put in the address of the sender.

Do not send a reply that just says “Me, too” or some other short response. Too many Email Lists are clogged by hundreds of “Me, too”s.

Keep messages short and to the point. If you are going to post a long reply or, in some cases, a long rant, please indicate that in the subject header. For example, “Subject: Expert Witnesses – Long Reply”.

Attachments. The list does not accept attachments. If you wish to send an attachment to an individual member of the list, you may do so, but not to the list. Also, you should first get permission from a member of the list to send an attachment.

Promotion/Solicitation. The MSBA reserves the right to restrict promotion of products, services and programs not specifically endorsed by the MSBA. Only MSBA staff are authorized to post information about various MSBA programs, services and activities.

In accordance with common e-mail list courtesy, you may not send non-State Bar “commercial” and/or self-promotional postings to the list. The e-mail list is not intended to provide a forum for the promotion or advocacy of the beliefs of any other organization. Solicitations and endorsements for political candidates or requests for fundraising contributions are likewise out of order.

The MSBA does not provide e-mail addresses to outside vendors.

Signatures. All messages must be “signed” with at least your full name and telephone number. Autosignatures make this an automatic process. If you use an autosignature, you should restrict its length to no more than six or eight lines. Do not attach your v-card as part of your autosignature, as viruses can attach themselves to v-cards.

Technical Issues. If you believe that there is a technical problem with the Email List, do not post to the Email List. Send a private post to the Webmaster.

Unsubscribing from the Email List. At the bottom of all e-mail messages from the Email Lists is the ability to unsubscribe. You may unsubscribe at any time. You may also send a blank e-mail to leave-listname@lists.msba.org or send an e-mail to Webmaster with your name, e-mail address used on the Email List and the Email List name.

Virus Scanning. Viruses are destructive, both in terms of the damage they can do to computers and in terms of lost billable time trying to get one’s computer back up and running. For this reason, participants of Email Lists have an extra responsibility to their fellow attorneys to employ a virus-detection package and to regularly update the virus definitions so it continues to provide adequate protection.

If you discover you have a virus on your computer, you should immediately contact John Anderson by telephone at (800) 492-1964, ext. 3036, and ask him to post a warning not to open any e-mails with attachments sent under your name.

Managing the Messages (or “Don’t Shoot the Messenger”). Some complain and prefer not to participate on lists because of the large number of messages. I believe that is shortsighted. I think the value of the lists far outweighs any inconvenience. However, there are some ways that you can manage the messages so that they are not an intrusion.

The easiest way to manage messages from lists and other “non-critical” client-related messages is to set up folders for your Email Lists or other topics and have the messages sent directly (filtered) to those folders so they do not clutter your inbox. You can then read them when you choose. Messages can be filtered to go into any folder – even the Deleted folder. You can filter messages based upon the sender or any other criteria.

Outlook and most other e-mail packages allow you to set up folders. You can set up folders in Outlook by going to File>New>Folder and then give it a name. You can even create sub-folders. You can then set up folders for your Email Lists and have those messages sent directly to those folders.

In Outlook, this can be done by going to Tools>Rules Wizard. In Rules Wizard, designate that all messages sent to you from MSBARealProperty (or whatever the name is) be sent directly to the folder that you created. When a message from MSBARealProperty comes to your e-mail, it will be rerouted to that folder.

If you receive junk mail from the same source but cannot get off the list, you can even have those messages sent directly to your Deleted Folder.

The other method for managing Email Lists is to get a digest of all messages that were sent that day. This will be sent in one e-mail to you at the end of the day. If you would like to change your message delivery settings, you can do so by following these directions:

  1. Visit www.msba.org/?lyris.
  2. Click on the name of the list of which you are a member.
  3. Enter your e-mail address used on the list.
  4. Click on the “Your Settings” button.
  5. Choose your mail delivery type in the Status list box.

The mail delivery options available are as follows:

  1. Mail – receive messages as they are contributed.
  2. Digest – one daily message with all contributions for that day (not recommended).
  3. Mime Digest – one daily message with all contributions for that day in MIME format.
  4. Index mail – one daily message with only the subject lines for that day (full messages can be retrieved via e-mail, instructions included in message).
  5. No mail – receive no mail from the Email List.

This will leave your account active while you are away on vacation but not deliver mail to your e-mail address.

We hope that all of our members will use the lists to help them connect with others, get questions to answers, share information and help new practitioners. We are always working on many ways to improve the process. If you have suggestions on how we can improve the lists, please forward them to Pat Yevics (pyevics@msba.org).. Also, if you are having difficulty with someone on a particular list, please contact me directly. I can be reached by phone at (800) 492-1964, ext. 3039, or by e-mail at pyevics@msba.org. We are here to help you.

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: November 2008

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