Three notes on e-mail practices and attorney-client privilege

Tips on e-mail productivity abound on this blog, yet in-house lawyers may not think of those techniques as they bear on the attorney-client privilege. A speaker at the Georgia Corporate Counsel Institute mentioned that wanton copying by clients of a lawyer on routine e-mails makes it harder later to defend the privilege for a particular e-mail. So, in-house lawyers should advise their clients against unthinkingly copying messages to them.

Another point picked on signature blocks automatically appended to messages. If every outgoing e-mail by you, an in-house attorney, claims to be privileged, you have weakened your argument. Sometimes you act in a compliance role or offer business advice, unable to claim privilege. Too facile a use of the automatic assertion of privilege vitiates it.

She closed with precautions about “reply all.” Even if you have chosen a key message that deserves protection and not blurred the privilege’s protection through over-use, if the recipient copies other people or if you casually click “reply all” and do the same, poof, the privilege can evaporate.

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