Don’t CC Clients on Emails

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As a general rule, you should not CC your clients on emails.

First, because it gives every other recipient a chance to communicate directly with your client. In fact, it looks like an invitation to do so. Opposing counsel should know better, but even they might use Reply All accidentally, accidentally-on-purpose, or maybe even intending — albeit misguidedly — to be helpful.

In the case of recipients who are not bound by the rules of professional responsibility, you can hardly be surprised if they take the inclusion of your client’s email address as an invitation to keep them in the conversation or communicate with them directly. And remember that the recipient might forward your email, giving anyone not already included the chance to do so. This could be harmless if your email is related to a friendly business transaction. It could also be disastrous.

Don’t forget that clients can make mistakes, too. Even if you BCC your client to avoid the above problems, it could be your client who uses Reply All.

Second, part of your job is to counsel your client, which is difficult to do without providing at least a sentence or two of summary or context or explanation. If all you do is CC your client on every email (or forward every email with little more than “FYI”), you are missing a chance to do your job.

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The better practice is usually to wait until the end of the discussion (or at least a decision point), so you can bring your client up to speed with a brief summary, some context, your analysis, the options you need to discuss, etc. Go ahead and include all the back-and-forth if you like, but don’t just hand it off. It is safe to assume given the fact of your representation that your client wants you to use your legal accumen to help them understand what is going on.

So don’t CC your client. There are certainly some exceptions to this “rule,” or times when it doesn’t really matter. But at a minimum you should think twice before adding your client to the CC or BCC field of an email you are about to send.

Featured image: “email symbol, at sign, grey background” from Shutterstock.

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  • Ken

    Great advice. In a similar vein, I never forward emails as attachments because, and i learned this the hard way, the recipient may open the forwarded email, read it, forget they are no longer reading your email, and respond to the third party with a message intended for you.

    • Saadia

      Completely agree.i have always been conscious of this.think it’s a good idea to send separate emails to clients,

  • Steve Niswanger

    Jay Foonberg, who wrote a book on law office management, and I, who teaches a law office management class at law school as an adjunct, disagree with you. A client should be copied on all written correspondence as a general rule. Period. They typically believe they are paying for the letterhead and signature block in written correspondence. It’s a easy way to show your client that you are working hard for them and to keep them in the loop at the same time. Most people under 45 know how to use email, just like everyone still alive knows how to use snail mail. You’d never write a letter to opposing counsel and cc everyone he or she cc’d on his or her prior letter. Most folks under 45 know to conduct themselves accordingly with email.

    • Most folks under 45 know to conduct themselves accordingly with email.

      This has not been my experience.

      • Steve Niswanger

        I shared the opposing views with my class several weeks ago. Another lawyer in my town sides with you on the issue, and we have debated it. I shared his and my views with the class. There was some debate, but most of the students felt like copying clients was a good idea. Most of them are from a whole ‘nother generation.

  • Tom Metcalf

    Never CC an electronic communication, for the reasons given in the post. Instead I have them printed out and included in the weekly update letter that every active client gets regarding the progress or lack thereof in their case, along with the bill for that week’s work, mailed on Friday. I may scribble a note on the paper copy to provide context.

  • Natalie Freitas

    Absolutely! Great reminder. I make sure if specific clients want word for word information that it is ALWAYS forwarded after the fact. Not only for the purposes stated above but if there is confidential information or information that may at a later date that must be under seal this can cause many large issues that no one wants to deal with or could cause sanctions or malpractice. I can think about three or four more issues but will leave at that. Great article! Thank you!