Teaching Email

Recent postings about legal education have recalled something I used to teach students in legal writing seminars, but gave up because I couldn’t really find any good class readings on the subject – the use of email as a form of legal writing. It seems pretty obvious, as email is undoubtedly the most prevalent form of legal writing, but it seems to be missed out in most law school curricula of which I am aware.

I have touched briefly on this by referring to the Law Society of British Columbia’s “Sample internet and Email Use Policy”

I’ve done some searches in the journal literature and on Google but still come up dry. Am I wrong in my assumption that email should be taught as a form of legal writing and am I correct there is nothing really out there that is adequate for student/articled student/lawyer use?

I can usually find what I am looking for, but I seem to keep coming up dry on this, which makes me think there is nothing and I’m simply riding my own hobby horse.


  1. I think that all forms of professional writing are important and something that students should be taught. Email is its own form of expression — hence the odd (to me) appearance of emoticons, suggesting that most people (among whom you’d find law students) aren’t accustomed to writing informallly well enough to convey tone with clarity.

    Equally important, I’d say, is teaching about email — it’s uses, misuses, and the technical surround, etc.

  2. We would also have to teach how not to become an e-mail addict or a crackberry… under threat of loosing 10 IQ points (read on).

  3. Neil, I would say perhaps if there is nothing written, you should write something! Then we would all have a starting reference.

    Above and beyond etiquette and writing style, email has become so ubiquitous that most people–including practitioners–have forgotten the security concerns surrounding it. For this reason (and others), it is not the best method of communicating confidential information with clients or others.

  4. This is the only article I’m aware of – The Perils of Email – by Stephen Armstrong and Timothy Terrell (published in the Spring 2006 edition of Perspectives (the free newsletter from West) which can be found on the West website.