Double-Check E-mail Recipients to Avoid Disqualification

Relying on your e-mail provider’s auto-complete feature can result in privileged information landing in the wrong hands. More importantly, reviewing that privileged information can lead to disqualification.

Always Check Twice

Before sending an e-mail, glance at your recipient list. If your e-mail client only displays names and not addresses, click on the names to make sure the addresses are current. It doesn’t do you any good if it’s an old address. Instead of bouncing back, that privileged information could end up in anyone’s hands.

If double-checking isn’t in your nature, you can also disable auto-complete. Techie Buzz explains how to disable auto-complete with popular e-mail clients Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, Eudora, and Yahoo!. In Gmail, the labs feature ‘Got the Wrong Bob?’ will check to make sure you meant to send the e-mail to Bob Smith and not Bob Jones.

Learn from Others’ Mistakes

A federal judge in California recently ordered the disqualification of a law firm after attorneys at the firm read e-mails containing privileged information. According to LegalPad, the plaintiffs’ e-mail provider auto–populated the address field with a defendant’s e-mail address. Defendant’s in-house lawyer acknowledged receiving the e–mails, and said “she realized the material was probably privileged.” However, she inadvertently revealed some of the privileged information to outside counsel. Judge Jeffrey White disqualified the outside counsel.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/56810010@N02/5312658487/)

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  • Josh,

    You’ve articulated one of the great horrors I have dreaded occurring: sending a client’s email to the wrong person. I use Gmail so I’ll look into that “Got the wrong Bob?” feature. Thanks!

    • Josh Camson

      Ben,

      I’m glad I could help. Hopefully that Gmail feature will sort you right out!

  • I’m a legal recruiter, so my email address gets around a bit and my name is rather common (Adam Oliver), but I recently received two emails from a corporate associate in NYC. I was one of many people copied on the email, and judging from the subject line, the attachments were mark-ups of upcoming SEC filings. I quickly deleted the email, for some reason thinking that if the partners noticed that a legal recuiter was copied on the email that a quick deletion might somehow help the associate’s cause, but stuff like that can get attorneys in trouble quickly, particularly junior associates who are supposed to be the gatekeepers on stuff like that…Not that I have any specific experience with stuff like that from my days as a corporate associate…

    • Josh Camson

      Adam,

      I doubt the quick deletion helped the associate’s cause. But I’m sure he or she would appreciate your concern.