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How Out of Office can keep the judge off your case

Photo credit: Team Dalog (Flickr) via Creative Commons license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en)

Unless otherwise noted, all instructions and screenshots are from Microsoft Office for Windows.

You know, I love electronic court filing and noticing as much as the next person. Trouble is, now that nearly everyone’s gone electronic, everybody also assumes that everybody else sees everything immediately. But it ain’t necessarily so.

Witness, for example, the pickle one attorney landed in recently. Seems he had a death in the family, followed immediately by a trip to the emergency room to check out his chest pains.

And while all this was going on, the court e-noticed two hearings for his client … which said attorney failed to show up for.

Oops.

In the Age of the Crackberry in which everybody expects you to be endlessly available, it’s important to let email senders know when you’re not reachable by email.  That’s where Outlook’s Out of Office feature comes in handy.

The great part is, it’s ridiculously simple to use:

  • Click Tools on the menu bar in Outlook
  • Choose Out of Office Assistant
  • Type in your message
  • Click the radio button next to “I am currently Out of the Office”
  • Done!

When you come back from vacation or whatever, just go through these same steps again, except this time click the radio button next to “I am currently In the Office.”

Some caveats are in order, though:

  1. Each sender who emails you during your absence only gets one notice.  If you’re planning on being out an extended period, you may want to take additional measures to ensure everybody knows you’re still out.
  2. Starting with Outlook’s version 2007, your return to the office is greeted by an extremely subtle reminder in the Status Bar that your Out of Office is still on.  So subtle, in fact, you just might miss it. You would do well to put an additional reminder on your calendar to be sure you remember to turn it off.

If you want to go one step further and automatically forward selected emails (say, everything from the uscourts.gov email domain) to a colleague, now would be a good time to learn how to set up Rules and Alerts in Outlook.  (It’s useful for other tasks, too.)

So how do you deal with being Out of Office?  Let us know in the comments below!

Photo credit: Team Dalog (Flickr) via Creative Commons license

by Deborah Savadra

I spend an inordinate amount of my time playing with computers and attempting to explain technology to lawyers and law office staff. It's not always easy, but someone's got to do it.

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