Most of the time, e-mail feels like the best way to communicate with clients and opposing counsel. Many times, however, a phone call is a more efficient way to resolve an issue.

One major problem with e-mail is that it feels less formal and less personal, which tricks many people into writing things that they would never say. E-mail is not an excuse to fly off the handle; be sure to moderate your thoughts.

E-mails are a written record—good and bad

E-mails between opposing counsel tend to appear in discovery motions, fee petitions, and even Rule 11 motions. Regardless of whether you think you are right or wrong, e-mails are self-explanatory evidence.

For example, during a phone call with opposing counsel they screamed, called you names, and acted generally unprofessional. In response, you typed out a emotional e-mail detailing why you hate working with them. Even if your e-mail was 25% as bad as what they said, that e-mail will show up in a motion. You can always submit an affidavit, but an e-mail is a written record—there is no arguing about what it says.

E-mails are easy to misinterpret

My sense of humor is rather dry and sarcastic—which never translates well to e-mail. Conveying the right tone can be a tricky thing to do over e-mail. When you combine that with already contentious relationship between opposing parties, that can be a recipe for disaster.

If you receive an e-mail that sends you into a tizzy, do not send an immediate response. Let it be and come back to it later. Many times, you are simply misreading an e-mail. When you read it later, it does not seem nearly as offensive.

Be clear and concise in your e-mails. To the best of your ability, avoid using emotional words or trying to imply or incite a emotional response. Otherwise, you might find some that some of your choice words are attached to an affidavit and part of the public record.