There is no doubt that e-mail has transformed the way we communicate in business as well as socially but how impersonal and sometimes irritating it has become. Long gone are the days of letters being sent with time to breathe before the reply arrived 2 or 3 days later!
The merits of e-mail in business cannot be disputed. It is fast and provides an archived record of communication. Conversations by exchange of e-mails cannot be disputed. Once the key is pressed however an e-mail cannot easily be recalled and therefore should never be sent in anger or in haste but only after careful deliberation.
Even I, as an “old-school solicitor” find that the format is ideal for communicating with a number of people at the same time, providing clear and precise instructions, setting up meetings, attaching documents and maintaining records of communications. There are however disadvantages. For example there is no guarantee when an e-mail will be opened and read particularly if it is an urgent communication. E-mail inboxes are often overcrowded and important e-mails (particularly detailed e-mails with attachments) can easily be set aside to be revisited later and therefore be overlooked.
E-mails are impersonal and one of the unfortunate consequences is a lack of personal contact either in telephone conversations or meetings. While e-mails can be convenient, particularly in the legal profession, it is important for solicitors to know their clients and to have face to face meetings for numerous reasons, including identifying your client. There is a lot to be said for having a face to face meeting or picking up the telephone to make contact with your client.
A more serious aspect of e-mail is security, particularly for the legal profession. Privacy in business is crucial and of course all members of legal firms owe a duty of confidentiality to their clients. There is a risk that e-mails can be intercepted or opened by recipients for whom they are not intended. At James & George Collie we urge clients to take care and ensure before providing financial information that they send it to the intended recipient and if a request for such information looks dubious, then clients must relay such information by telephone or personally.
If only we could more quickly sift through all the spam we receive by e-mail from offers of fabulous holidays to funeral plans which, depending in one’s age, can be somewhat unsettling.
Little would Ray Tomlinson who invented the e-mail in 1972 have the remotest idea how it would revolutionise communication used by all ages from toddlers to grandparents and even great grandparents. On balance what would we do without it!