Most of our clients are very comfortable using email for their informal correspondence to friends and family. Not every client is accustomed to using email as a form of business communication, however. In some instances misuse of email in client correspondence can misdirect and even hinder an attorney’s effectiveness in the case.

If you’ve hired an attorney to represent you in your divorce, child custody, or other family law matter, or plan to do so in the future, then you will be communicating with your attorney’s team on a regular basis. You’ll meet with your attorney and legal team face-to-face. You’ll talk on the telephone. You’ll send and receive letters by U.S. Mail, FedEx, and UPS. And you’ll send and receive emails, probably a lot of them. Today’s article is about getting in the habit of sending emails to your attorney in a productive time-is-money manner.

Tip #1. This is business. Stick to the legal matter at hand.

Avoid using emoticons like smileys, and abbreviations like ROFL and OMG, in your email messages to your lawyer. Those are certainly fun and useful in personal email messages and maybe on your facebook page, but they detract from your message in an email to your attorney. Also, make sure to check your spelling, and use proper punctuation and standard capitalization. TYPING YOUR EMAIL IN ALL CAPS SHOUTS AT THE READER, DOESN’T MAKE WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY MORE IMPORTANT, AND CAN MAKE YOUR MESSAGE MUCH MORE DIFFICULT TO READ.

Tip #2. Think. Pause. Think Again. Then Send.

This is great email advice for everyone from the American Society of Legal Writers. Always proofread your email carefully before you hit send. If your email is replete with errors, or doesn’t flow logically, then the attorney receiving it will spend that much more billable time trying to figure out what you really meant to say. Take the time to write carefully, to proofread your message, to make sure it reads logically and says specifically what you intended. Then send. If you can get your message across to your attorney on his or her first reading, then you’ve saved time and money in legal fees.

Tip #3. A timely "reply" is good. A "forward" to your attorney is good. A "forward" of your attorney’s email is too late.

Don’t be in such a hurry to send a message to your attorney that you accidentally "forward" instead of a direct "reply" to your attorney’s original message. If you receive an important message from your sister, for example, with a link to your estranged spouse’s MySpace page, then forwarding her message to your attorney may help your case. But don’t forward your attorney’s emails to anyone, ever. Here’s an example: Let’s say you feel an overwhelming need to share what’s happening in your case and so you forward your attorney’s email to your sister, who forwards it to your mother, who then shares it with your 16-year-old son, who promptly forwards it to your soon to be ex-spouse, who now knows way more than he or she should about your attorney’s strategy in the case.

Tip #4. Always protect your privacy online.

Because of emails’ simplicity and universal application, it is far too easy to send personal information without reflecting on what is being sent and where it could end up. Never provide your Personally Identifiable Information (PII)-such as your social security number, birth date, mother’s maiden name, or banking information-in an email message. Don’t give away anyone else’s PII either. Criminals use PII to exploit and steal identities. So think before you send and always remember that unencrypted email is the postcard any carrier can read and forward.

Contact the Dallas family law attorneys at the O’Neil Attorneys by email today, we look forward to hearing from you.


Law Office of Scott David Stewart blog

The American Society of Legal Writers


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Photo of Michelle O'Neil Michelle O'Neil

Michelle May O’Neil has 30+ years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes…

Michelle May O’Neil has 30+ years’ experience representing small business owners, professionals, and individuals in litigation related to family law matters such as divorce, child custody, and complex property division. Described by one lawyer as “a lethal combination of sweet-and-salty”, Ms. O’Neil exudes genuine compassion for her client’s difficulties, yet she can be relentless when in pursuit of a client’s goals. One judge said of Ms. O’Neil, “She cannot be out-gunned, out-briefed, or out-lawyered!”

Family Law Specialist

Ms. O’Neil became a board-certified family law specialist by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1997 and has maintained her certification since that time. While representing clients in litigation before the trial court is an important part of her practice, Ms. O’Neil also handles appellate matters in the trial court, courts of appeals and Texas Supreme Court. Lawyers frequently consult with Ms. O’Neil on their litigation cases about specialized legal issues requiring particularized attention both at the trial court and appellate levels. This gives her a unique perspective and depth of perception that benefits both her litigation and appellate clients.

Top Lawyers in Texas and America

Ms. O’Neil has been named to the list of Texas SuperLawyers for many years, a peer-voted honor given to only about 5% of the lawyers in the state of Texas. Ms. O’Neil received the special honor of being named by Texas SuperLawyers as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Texas, Top 100 Lawyers in Texas, and Top 100 Lawyers in DFW for multiple years. She was named one of the Best Lawyers in America and received an “A-V” peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell Legal Directories for the highest quality legal ability and ethical standards.

Author and Speaker

A noted author, Ms. O’Neil released her second book Basics of Texas Divorce Law in November 2010, with a second edition released in 2013, and a third edition expected in 2015.  Her first book, All About Texas Law and Kids, was published in September 2009 by Texas Lawyer Press. In 2012, Ms. O’Neil co-authored the booklets What You Need To Know About Common Law Marriage In Texas and Social Study Evaluations.  The State Bar of Texas and other providers of continuing education for attorneys frequently enlist Ms. O’Neil to provide instruction to attorneys on topics of her expertise in the family law arena.