Start Page: Exploring alternatives to using email

Kim Brand
February 15, 2012
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Kim BrandEmail is war – you are a prisoner. Your inbox, once littered with annoying spam, now delivers a super-abundance of information. The torrent defies your effort to organize, classify, prioritize and respond to those that are critical versus those that are merely interesting. Bad news: it’s only going to get worse.

According to, there were 107 trillion emails sent in 2010 from 2.8 billion email accounts – expected to grow to 3.8 billion accounts by 2014. Since the Internet makes the world a small place filled with lots of people who want to be your “friend,” you can expect to start receiving email regularly from most of them.

Unlike paper mail whose volume is expected to drop six percent in 2012, the “machinery” that delivers email is getting faster and cheaper. The natural forces that restrain growth are absent. Email is like a species obrand1.giff animal that has no natural predator.

Many practicing attorneys started their careers before email was possible, let alone popular. Prior communication technologies – mail and phone – evolved slowly enough that systemic and cultural accommodations kept pace with their growth. You delegate opening mail to assistants; someone – or something – answers your phone. Not so with email; most of it gets delivered straight to your inbox. Productivity fail.

Here are five alternatives to email you should know about.

Just call – You can’t deny millions of years of evolutionary predisposition: We like to talk. (See: Pink Floyd’s 1994 song, “Keep Talking.”) Some messages are just better communicated in person or at least in a conversation. Emotion and interaction are absent in email. Rule: After two or three emails on the same subject: JUST CALL!

What’s old is new again: fax – I still get funny looks from 20-somethings about what a fax is or why they’d want to use one. Most businesses have a fax machine. Few are as busy as they once were. That makes fax a quieter channel to deliver a message and one that gets disproportionate attention.
Instant message quickies – We think of instant messaging as a communication channel for teens – like texting. But it can be the antidote for phone slips and the one- or two-sentence messages that litter your email inbox. Be careful to allow only your colleagues, friends or family to communicate with you this way or it will become a constant annoyance – like email.

Email was not designed for attachments – The Internet protocol that delivers email is incompetent at delivering binary files like Word docs, PDFs and photos. Attachments strain mailbox size and “hide” files in your email program that should be shared on your network and/or filed with other client materials. The solution is to use a file sharing service. With these, you upload the file to a secure website then simply send your correspondent(s) a link to it.

Wikis - your personal Wikipedia – To truly exchange ideas, documents and other files you need a web-based tool. Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites on the planet – and you can have one for yourself, your firm, or dedicated to a project, client or case. The principal attraction of a wiki is that information is presented in context. Supporting resources can be uploaded and/or linked on a page viewable over the web from anywhere. Security is managed using encryption, logins and passwords.

They say that if the only tool you have is a hammer, all your problems look like nails. Such is the case with email. It may be the only tool you have so you are tempted to [mis]use it for everything. Take my advice and expand your toolkit to include these alternatives to email.•


Kim Brand is a technology expert and president of Computer Experts Inc., a 27-year-old IT services company in Indianapolis. He has presented to local and state bar audiences and written for West Publishing and the ILTA. Kim contributed to the “On-Premises” section of the recently released legal technical standards, and he is the inventor of the FileSafe Server used by many law firms. For a free Audio CD on email management tips write to the author and request “Breaking the Rabbit Habit.” He may be reached at or by phone at 317-833-3000. The opinions expressed are the author’s.


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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues