Over the last few months, we’ve had discussions with hundreds of law firms in the US about automating their email signature compliance and management. We were genuinely surprised to find out how little law firms invest in ensuring compliance and brand consistency of their staff email signatures, especially considering the information that is both pertinent and required in the legal industry.

While many of the these firms have a basic set of rules in place for addressing email signature compliance, the enforcement of those rules tend to be ad-hoc at best.

When I speak with senior partners, or their marketing departments, how email signatures are managed in their firm today, the answer is invariably: “our IT department handles signatures, and they run the  process.”

Peeling the onion back a bit, it’s easy to find consistent examples of implementation shortfalls when it comes to automating and managing email signatures in the law firm setting:

  • For one law firm, new staff are given instructions on how to copy and paste the signature template of a colleague. One problem with this approach is the aging of the disclaimer statements. These statements tend to change over time. One law firm in particular realized that senior partners signatures had disclaimers that were years old.
  • At another law firm, there was no distinction between the signatures of lawyers with varying board certifications. Junior lawyers had the same signatures as the board certified partners. Managing multiple situational signature templates is not consistent resulting in a range of variations
  • At a large multi-national firm, senior partners habitually ignore requests to adopt new signature templates. The IT group does not have the authority to enforce the templates on senior partners. That resulted in entire regional offices not adopting templates with new brand designs.
  • At a well-known legal corporation, lawyers mixed emails relating to their legal practice with those of wealth management. The IRS requires that wealth management related emails have IRS specific disclaimers appended. Lawyers were not paying attention to that nuance.

What these firms require is a mechanism for enforcing signature templates, and in the process, implementing variations on those templates based on the profile of the email sender and purpose of the email. Current email systems do not provide marketing or IT with the automation required to achieve a reasonable set of email signature compliance capabilities.

For example, one method used by law firms is a tool that appends disclaimer statements to outbound emails as they depart the email server. That is a good solution for disclaimers, as long as the IT department is aware of the nuances of each email. For example, the same lawyer who is working on legal matters, then switching to wealth management matters, will need two different disclaimers. Only that lawyer can make that judgement per email sent. Therefore the lawyer himself needs to control the version of disclaimer appended to each email.

The ultimate tool to use for signature management is one that combines the following capabilities:

  1. Marketing is able to create multiple signature templates in one central repository, where variations are easily managed
  2. Rules are created against staff profiles in order to assign the right signature templates to the right staff member
  3. Automated distribution and update of the templates to each staff member’s desktop, laptop and mobile device
  4. Signature templates are provided as choices to lawyers so that they can pick the right template per situational email

And that is why we are seeing more and more law firms address this issue with tool like Xink.

In the next post, I will cover some of the best practices we are seeing across our law firm customers.

Stay tuned.

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