Save Outlook e-mails to your client file


Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.

Recently, a reader wrote in asking how to use Microsoft Outlook for case management software. Specifically, the reader wanted to know how to get e-mails from Outlook into your client file folders on your hard drive. Instead of just answering the e-mail, I did a screencast showing two different ways to manage folders in Outlook.

Saving Outlook e-mails to your file from Lawyerist Media on Vimeo.


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  • This is very helpful, Josh. While a client’s case is active, it may also be important to save e-mails in their native format so that useful metadata is not lost. But for archiving e-mails, I think there is also a third option that people should consider, which is to save either an individual message or a group of messages as a rich text file (using the “save as” command on the file menu). E-mail messages saved in their native format may not open on other systems, such as a Mac, which I now use (They will open if forwarded through an e-mail program, but not if the actual file is copied to a disk for retrieval later).

    The disadvantage of saving to rich text is that attachments are stripped. But e-mail is a poor place to store attachments anyway. I like to save all attachments to e-mail in appropriate client folders while those matters are open, move the e-mail itself to a client e-mail folder, and then when I close the client’s file, save all the e-mails en masse as rich text.

  • You can also archive an entire folder of email to a sortable, searchable PDF.

  • Elizabeth Maddox

    This article is very helpful. In the land of state government (where I work), it is required that we save every emai even when it will later be determined to be confidentiall. Our case files are stored in a database that recognizes a limited number of formats. I have found it helpful to print individual email or fax documents to a .pdf format document and then save that document to the relevant case file. The storage is easier in our system and we need to keep both the email (that will be archived) and the case file that can be searched and reviewed by all employees as needed using the database parameters.

  • Josh Reneker

    I see you are using Vimeo to post your videos. What program do you use to record your online video demo and do you have to convert it? Looking for something easy to use. Thank you

  • Sam Glover

    We use Vimeo because it allows higher-quality video than YouTube. I think Josh recorded that video using free software, CamStudio for Windows.

  • This was very helpful. I have been in practice at a large firm for 3 years and my outlook inbox is so full that the entire application moves at a crawl. This will be terrific to speed it up and get all those old emails out of my inbox.

    Question – Rick mentioned the ability to create a searchable PDF. I want to try that. How do I do it?

    BTW – Huge fan of the video tutorial!

    – Nena

  • @Nena: Select the e-mails you want, and print to PDF.

    Also, if your e-mail inbox is brimming full, you may want to give Inbox Zero a try. It changed my life.

  • Leigh Monette

    Sam and Nena:

    Outlook is notorious for not printing message items chronologically, so the print to PDF option has some serious issues.

    There are apps out there that will print in chrono or reverse chrono, I recall the tag is about $50. Seems silly when the app ought to be able to print data in the same way it displays it.

    I suppose that search functionality makes the sort order irrelevant, but I’ve always dreamed of maintaining a single (albeit enormous) PDF file for matter-specific e-mails, that I can update as new messages arrive. Outlook’s problems with ordering make that more difficult than I’d like.

    And Sam’s suggestion for Inbox Zero is a good one – I’ve adhered to a minimal inbox count for years, and it keeps me sane (and organized).

  • Nena Street

    Thanks, Sam & Leigh.

    I just checked out 43folders and don’t really get the site . . . what am I missing?

    Also I should clarify, my inbox is divided into about 40 subfolders grouped by type of work, then client, then matter. So my actual inbox is pretty tidy, but my entire inbox contains all my work emails for the past three years.

    Thanks for the tip on PDF. Good to know they may not be in order. For some folders, that may not matter at all. For others, it will. Very helpful.

  • @Nena: Watch the Inbox Zero video.

  • Nena Street

    I just finished it. Terrific. Thanks for the recommendation.

  • Kalani Patterson

    @Leigh: Any leads on the programs that will export a properly sorted PDF? I seem to recall seeing ads for such software, but I’ve never paid too much attention to it. It would be great to have a dependable way to archive off closed case emails and fully remove them from our server (other than the archive file, which can move to inactive file storage instead of taking space in Exchange).

  • Leigh Monette

    This is the app I was referring to:

    I haven’t tried it, so I can’t attest to its utility.

    My firm runs Office XP (yes, I can hear you laughing and no, it’s not up to me) so that means I’m stuck with Outlook 2002.

    Newer versions of Outlook, like 2003 or 2007, might already fix this problem. But from what I’ve seen on other sites it’s still an issue.

  • Leigh Monette

    As far as getting it to PDF, I use PDFcreator. It’s a great freeware app. Whether I could ever configure it to append to an existing PDF file is something I haven’t tried yet.

    I believe the full Acrobat Professional can do all of these things, but I’m too frugal/cheap to pony up for it. I’m not sure whether it can fix the print order.

  • Thank you for this tutorial. I have now played around with moving emails to the client’s folder and with converting the emails to pdf. Josh, I thought it was a good point you made about the backup software not synchronizing the pst files. I am a new Dropbox user, and I don’t think you can back up the Outlook emails (I may be wrong), so I am trying to get into the habit of moving my important correspondence to the client’s file.

    When I finish with a project, I then convert the Outlook folder for that project to pdf. I use XP, Outlook 2007, and Acrobat Pro, and have not had any issues with the dates being incorrect. It will also save attachments. I am having one issue with appending an email with an attachment to a previously saved pdf of emails, but otherwise, I think some combination of these two methods will do the trick for me.

  • sean mcinnes

    If you want to keep your emails in tact and searchable but also store them in client folders take a look at

    It also allows you to add a reference when filing which is also searchable using their custom search tool.