Microsoft Outlook 2007 is a popular program used to aid productivity in law firms both large and small, but most lawyers are unaware of some of the most helpful functions of the program. I recently turned to Ben Schorr’s book, The Lawyer’s Guide to Microsoft Outlook 2007, to get some tips. If you have Outlook 2007, you might want to check out these features before you spend money or time on a new product. The solution you are seeking may be right under your nose.
The Mail (email) portion of Outlook 2007 is the one that most lawyers are familiar with, but even this portion of the program has features that most do not use. For example, you can create customized Signatures for your email messages which can include graphics (such as your logo) and links as well as text, or use Signatures for any text or graphic that you use repetitively (such as standard language about setting appointments with your office).
The Reading Pane is handy for viewing not just messages, but attachments, too. Just click once to view the attachment without opening it or waiting for the appropriate program (Word, Excel, etc) to load.
“Contacts” is another familiar but under-utilized tool. Use the Notes section on the General Contact for identifying information. Attach a photo (from LinkedIn or another website) if you are better at remembering faces than names. Once attached, the photo will appear in email messages the contact sends to you.
Click “Map” while in a contact to pull up a map showing the contact’s location and enable you to get directions. Add a contact’s birthday or anniversary to their details and that date will automatically show up on your Outlook Calendar.
Clicking on Tasks at the bottom left of your screen in Outlook 2007 will provide you with a list of your tasks (whether created by setting up a new task or by flagging an item, such as an email message), and a To Do Bar with an at a glance calendar and a list of your upcoming appointments. Turn on the Reading Pane in Tasks to see the details of and notes associated with the task without having to open the task itself. Create reminders for tasks and customize when they will appear.
The Journal (CTRL-SHIFT-J) includes a timer to help you keep track of time, and will corral your notes on a contact, record the date and the length of time that you worked with the contact, and attach it all to the contact. Just click “Activities” in that contact to view all of your journal entries/notes in one place, as well as tasks, email messages, or appointments associated with that contact.
Use Categories to help sort all Outlook items, including calendar items and contacts. The colors associated with those categories will help you see at a glance how you are spending your time. Drag and drop mail messages, journal entries or tasks to the calendar to create appointments with all of the necessary details at your fingertips. See that date’s tasks below your appointments at the bottom of the screen.