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Outlook tips for lawyers

11th February 2015

Being a lawyer is often a rewarding and fulfilling occupation, but it is also one in which lawyers find that there are never enough hours in the day, particularly at the office. Using Outlook well is one way in which you can save time and even organise your working day effectively.

From effective solutions for Outlook email to using the Outlook calendar to your advantage, this guide will look to make corporate lawyer jobs even more enjoyable and give you the time to get down to what really matters, your work.


Time travel

When you are working with lawyers in different locations across the world it is sometimes helpful to be able to easily find out if they’re likely to be at work, or even awake! Be sure to never interrupt someone during their morning latte again with this Time Zone Outlook tip.

  • Go to the File tab and then click Options.
  • Then go to Calendar and scroll down to the Time Zones heading.
  • Then check the Show a second time zone box and choose a time zone that you wish to show and click OK.
  • Then in your Outlook calendar both time zones will show under the Day view.

Set regular appointments

Whether it’s a weekly meeting or a monthly catch up with your boss, you may want to set up recurring appointments in your Outlook calendar to ensure you remember and are prepared.

  • In the Calendar tab select New Appointment.
  • Then in the Appointment tab select Recurrence.
  • You can then set the Appointment Time, Recurrence Pattern and Range of Recurrence.

     Time saving


Here is a list of Outlook email shortcuts that could be invaluable to your day-to-day workload if you don’t already know them. You can even send an email without even touching your mouse; here’s how.

  • Hit Alt + Tab, possibly repeatedly, to switch your screen to Outlook.
  • Then type Ctrl + N to open a new blank email (note: you must be in the Mail tab for this to open a new email).
  • Check the cursor is in the ‘To:’ field, then type the contact’s name who you wish to send the email to. Type Ctrl + K to verify their address if your Outlook email is connected to Microsoft Exchange Server and you are emailing someone in your company.
  • Press the Tab key to move between the CC:, BCC: and Subject line fields, filling in the fields where appropriate.
  • Press Tab again – this will move the cursor into the email body where you can then compose your message.
  • You can use Spellcheck by hitting the F7 key and then use Tab to navigate through the process.
  • To attach files use the Alt + N, AF keys.
  • When you’re ready to send press Ctrl + Enter.

Other useful outlook shortcuts:

  • Ctrl + M = Send/Receive all.
  • F12 = Save As.
  • Alt + F4 = Close the active window.
  • Ctrl + Shift + a = Create an appointment.
  • Ctrl + Shift + c = Create a contact.
  • Ctrl + Shift + k = Create task.

Colour-Code your inbox

Conditional formatting can be used in Outlook email to colour-code your messages, making it possible to see at a glance which messages are directed to certain individuals and are coming from certain individuals.

  • In Outlook go to the View tab, then View settings.
  • Then click Conditional Formatting…
  • Click on Add.
  • Then enter the name that you want the rule to apply to. This will colour-code messages within that rule. For example, use the rule for ‘My Messages’ to colour-code messages sent only to you – this will then highlight messages that are for your attention only.
  • Then click the Font button and then, under Colour, change the colour to whichever you want as your colour code. Darker colours are more reader-friendly.
  • Then click OK.
  • Then click Condition. Here you can choose the rule where you can colour-code messages from a certain contact, to a certain contact, or messages with a particular Subject Line.
  • Click OK then OK again to finalise.

Schedule emails to send later

If you are composing an email ahead of when you wish to send it, for example you would like to send an email to someone in a different time zone and don’t want it to get caught up in their morning influx of messages, you can delay when you send the email so they get it at the most opportune moment.

  • Once the message is composed, go to the Options tab.
  • Then click Delay Delivery.
  • Here you can determine Settings, Security, Voting and Tracking Options, and delivery Options.
  • Click send, and then the email will be delivered at the time you have specified.

Mail merge

One of the best tips for using Outlook email to your advantage is learning how to quickly and easily send a very similar email to lots of people, whilst still tailoring the email to individuals. With mail merge you can send a mass email and still personalise certain fields, such as a name, with ease.

  • Create the email message in a Word document.
  • Create an Excel document with the number of columns for each field, e.g. name and email address, but you can also add other columns for business names etc.
  •  In the Word document go to the Mailings tab, click Select Recipients, click Use an Existing List, then locate the Excel file, click Open and then select the correct sheet and click Ok.
  • Then check that the correct columns are being identified as the right fields. To do this click Match Fields in the Word document, then select the correct field from the dropdown menu next to each category.
  • To make sure the correct field entry is inserted in the correct place of the email make sure the cursor is in place of where you want the first variable field to appear and click Insert Merge Field, then select the relevant field from the dropdown menu. You will need to do this for each separate field/column, except for the email addresses.
  • Then click Preview Results to see an example of how the email will look to the recipients.
  • Then send the emails by clicking Finish & Merge and then send Email Messages. These emails should then appear in your Sent Items in Outlook.

You may find that Mail-Merge doesn’t format numbers from an Excel spreadsheet correctly, which is where this guide can help.

     Sneaky tips

Even with years of experience you can still make the odd email mistake, and you might even wish to redirect emails, so your PA can help with the workload. Whatever it is, these sneaky tips will make office life that bit easier.

Recalling an email

Lawyers notoriously work long hours and, as a result, it is not uncommon to make the odd mistake, especially when typing out the numerous emails you may send every day. Here we show you how to recall an email and save face, preventing any unwanted errors.

  • Go to your Sent Items and open the email you wish to recall.
  • Then under the Actions button click Recall this Message.
  • Then you can choose to either ‘Delete unread copies of this message’ or ‘Delete unread copies and replace with a new message’.
  • If you tick the ‘Tell me if recall succeeds or fails for each recipient’ box you will receive an email if you have failed to recall the message because the recipient has already opened the message.

Redirect email replies

For those with a busy workload or an overactive Inbox, this tip can save time and constant annoyance after an influx of reply emails. If you often send group emails where the response doesn’t need to come to you, perhaps you want to find out how many people can make an event and the receptionist or your assistant is more appropriate to control the response, then this tip is for you.

  • Compose the email you wish to send.
  • In the Options tab of said email click the Direct Replies To button.
  • You can then delete your name under the Delivery Options header and replace it with the relevant contact/s.
  • You can also edit the Settings, Security, Voting and Tracking Options, and delivery Options, as with the Schedule Emails to Send Later tip.

These are just a few of the Outlook email tips that can really help in a legal office environment. Think we’ve missed an important tip? Share it with those who hold firm and in-house legal jobs across the UK on the LAW Absolute Facebook and Twitter pages.