Think Before You Send: Civility and Professionalism in Emails, 0222 COBJ, Vol. 51, No. 2 Pg. 8

PositionVol. 51, 2 [Page 8]

51 Colo.Law. 8

Think Before You Send: Civility and Professionalism in Emails

No. Vol. 51, No. 2 [Page 8]

Colorado Lawyer

February, 2022

As I See It

Civility and Professionalism in Emails


The pandemic has profoundly impacted us all, personally and professionally. It has added challenges to an already stressful profession, making many of us more reactive than previously to the communications or conduct of our colleagues. It has also increased the already too great role that email plays in our communications.

All these factors mean we should be more careful than ever in what we say, and how we say it, in our emails. In this article, I discuss why such caution is important and provide suggestions to help the "think-before-sending" process.

Three Reasons to Exercise Caution When Emailing

As a young lawyer I was taught never to write anything I wouldn't want to loudly announce at the corner of 16th Street and Broadway in Denver. Today, that admonition is even more important, as emails can last virtually forever and can be forwarded to virtually anyone. Before sending that impulsive email, consider the following risks.

It could be filed with the court.

Any email you write to opposing counsel may become a publicly filed court exhibit. This is particularly so given meet-and-confer requirements in both state and federal courts.[1] Judges tell us they detest squabbles among attorneys, including through emails appended to court filings. In a recent CLE program, a federal magistrate judge commented that asking opposing counsel in an email "Is that a joke?" does not, to put it mildly, comply with conferral requirements.

So, when emailing opposing counsel about your views on their clients' positions, consider who might read your writings in addition to the intended audience—including judges presiding over your cases.

You could be sanctioned.

Emails can also implicate ethical concerns.[2] In fact, emails can result in actual sanctions—and that has happened in Colorado. In People v. Abrams, an attorney was sanctioned for using discriminatory language about a judge in an email to his client (before the two became involved in a fee dispute), in violation of Colo. RPC 8.4(g).[3] The Colorado Supreme Court upheld the hearing board's ruling, finding that Rule 8.4(g), which prohibits conduct that "exhibits or is intended to appeal to or engender" discriminatory bias in the course of representing a client...

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