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Beware of Auto Complete

Lawyers using the auto-complete function in Outlook are at increased risk of sending confidential data to the wrong party. While many lawyers think it’s a great advantage to begin typing a client name and have the software automatically complete the rest, it is not an advantage and, in fact, a recipe for disaster.   

Having auto complete activated means you could be typing a message that you intend to send to your client, James Smith. As you begin to type “James S …”, Outlook fills in the rest of the name. You hit ‘send’ before seeing that the auto complete inserted James Smart (the other lawyer, or a reporter for the local paper) and your email goes to James Smart instead of James Smith, the intended recipient.

If you want to reduce the risk of this happening to you, disable the auto-complete option of your email as follows:

  1. Click "Tools," selecting "Options."
  2. When the "Options" multi-tabbed dialog box appears, click the "Preferences" tab.
  3. Click "E-Mail Options."
  4. When the "Advanced E-Mail Options" dialog appears, uncheck "Suggest names while completing To, CC, and Bcc fields."
  5. Click "OK" to close the dialog box.

As well, all of your emails should have a signature that includes all your contact information and a privileged and/or confidentiality clause, such as:

"This email may be privileged and/or confidential, and the sender does not waive any related rights and obligations. Any distribution, use or copying of this email or the information it contains by other than an intended recipient is unauthorized. If you received this email in error, please delete it and advise me (by return email or otherwise) immediately."