Beware the Four Most Dangerous Outlook Features

By Deborah Savadra

Lurking in the shadows of your email routine are dangerous features that could jeopardize your law practice. Here are four that trip up even seasoned Microsoft Outlook users.

1. Auto-Complete

You probably use the Auto-Complete feature every day, and take it totally for granted. The moment you put your cursor in the To: field of an email and start typing, Outlook tries to predict the email address you want. It’s been tracking your email habits and building a list of names and addresses from the messages you send. So, the moment you type “b” in the To: field, it suggests several past addressees whose names begin with “b.”

But with an inadvertent slip of the mouse, that email you think you’re sending to law partner Barbara could instead be going to opposing counsel Barry. And if the message contains sensitive information about a client, you’ve just breached confidentiality.

To be 100 percent safe, you’ll want to disable Auto-Complete altogether. But if you’re too addicted to its convenience to ditch it, be sure you do these things:

  • Pause to examine the list of choices you’re presented with when you start typing, then pause again after you’ve chosen an addressee from the list. A little mindfulness here could save a lot of embarrassment.
  • Delete email addresses you don’t need (or want) from Auto-Complete’s list of suggestions. Hover your mouse to the right of any address in the list that you want to delete from future choices and click the X on the right. (More detailed instructions can be found here.)

2. Out of Office

You’re getting ready to leave the office on vacation or for an out-of-town continuing education program. Did you give your assistant your itinerary? Check. Turn on your alternate voice-mail greeting? Check. Turn on Outlook’s Out of Office (aka Automatic Replies) feature? Check.

Before you go, double-check that Out of Office auto-reply. Do you really want to advertise to the world that your home is unoccupied, or which hotel you’re staying in?

You want your Out of Office message to reach the people you regularly do business with and give them only the information they need. So limit the reach of Outlook’s auto-replies to those inside your office and, if necessary, to outside recipients who are already in your Contacts list…

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