I once read that you shouldn’t use emojis in work emails. But I can’t resist a smiley face – when someone has provided me with a brilliant quote at short notice, when someone feels bad for emailing with another request, when it’s nearly the weekend. I always begin my emails hoping the other person is well. If I’m writing on a Monday, I hope they had a good weekend.
Always busy or on the move, emails are a convenient way for me to speak to people and I hope I always come across friendly and polite. So I was intrigued about the kind of emails landing in lawyers’ inboxes that has prompted the issue of email etiquette to come up at two recent family law events.
‘Death by bloody email,’ declared Professor Jo Delahunty QC at family law group Resolution’s conference last week while discussing how the pandemic has changed the way we work.
‘Emails have got to be controlled – not just the volume of them but also because of tone. How many of you, like me, have cases where a simple case coming up in the headline literally makes your stomach twist and turn?’
‘You cannot soften a harsh word [with] a like or smile. Too many of us fire off emails which contain a deadly bomb in every sentence, We have to make sure email etiquette makes a positive difference to the way the case is run as opposed to causing havoc and damage along the way.
'It cannot be right when we're talking about wellbeing as though it is someone else's responsibility. If you cannot be kind or compassionate, you must at least be courteous.’
Solicitor Jo O’Sullivan told a webinar hosted by Our Family Wizard that she wants to see more ‘human’ language instead of ‘my client this’ and ‘our client that’. For instance: ‘We could go mad and use their first names.’
While we’re on the topic of emails, it's time to put an end to ‘Dear Sirs’.
‘I’m not a “sir” and I’m one person,’ 14 Gray’s Inn barrister Camini Kumar told the webinar. ‘Try and look the person up. We all have the internet. Most people have profiles. Find out who you’re writing to. Look them up and address them by their name. If you cannot do that, why not ring their secretary, why not just ask.’
On that note, to quote the end of most emails I send on a Friday, I hope you have a fab weekend 😊