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Are you a Bob or a Robert? A Dick or Richard?

Beth. Bill. Bob. Dick. Drew. Gene. Jerry. Lainie. Liz. Ted. Tori.

Good marketing values clear communication.  It makes it easy for clients and prospects to find and reach you. Sometimes email can interfere, particularly for people with nicknames that differ significantly from the formal name, like Ted and Edward.Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 12.43.27 AM

If a firm has a standard convention of (e.g., what do you do with your old friend Bob? Does the firm’s email system consider him a Bob or a Robert?  Is he a “B” or an “R?”

Is Tori (born “Victoria”) a “T” or a “V?”

And why should it be the client’s job to figure it out?

If we’re trying to facilitate communication with clients, why not just have both work?  Pick one as the primary email address, but set up the alternate to work as well, to simply bounce the secondary one to the main one.  It should take your IT department two minutes to do that.

But it seems that few firms bother.  It’s not intentional, just neglectful.

“Bills” should validate both and  Why the heck do so many people who have always been called “Bill” use the formal “William” as their email address? Because there’s subtle pressure to use more formal names when you’re a lawyer, particularly when you’re young and just starting out. (Using unnecessary middle initials is another example.) Over time, it becomes hard to change.

Set up your email system to use both versions

I’d recommend that people named Bob should use both the Bob and Robert variations of their email address.

And Gene and Eugene, and Beth and Elizabeth….  Don’t make the clients figure out which one you use with an “Undeliverable” bounce-back, especially since it’s so easy to use both.

And while we’re on the subject, don’t make me figure out if you’re Kathy with a “C” or “K.”

Or a Jerry with a “J” or “G.”

Go nuts.  Use both.

It’s free.

Don’t use initials as your email address

Another fairly common email format is “,” i.e. replacing the sender’s name with just their initials. Long ago, I worked in a firm that did this. At the firm, everyone used their initials for everything. Memos were sent to distribution lists of initials. People signed their memos with initials. It was simply what they did; everyone knew everyone else’s initials. Decades later, I still remember them. The problem is, your contacts don’t.  

Initials can foil autofill.

When I open a new email and start typing “Tiff,” my computer is already suggesting “Tiffany” and prioritizing which Tiffany I probably mean, based on recent usage. I get a list of all the Tiffanys I’ve previously emailed. That’s helpful, I don’t have to remember anyone’s precise email address, I just have to select it off the list. But if Tiffany’s email address was “TLD@[firm].com,” my computer might not associate “Tiffany” with “TLD.” I’d look through all the other Tiffanys I’ve emailed and not find the one I’m looking for.

So, I’d have to remember that that at her firm they use initials instead of names and that Tiffany’s middle initial was “L.” In other words, I’d probably have to go spend an extra minute or two looking it up separately. Every time. It’s an annoying little burden on the sender that Tiffany wouldn’t want me to need to go through when I’m simply trying to send her a quick email.

I’d suggest changing to a more traditional email convention, like those suggested above, and simply have the old initial version auto-forward to it as you slowly phase out the old initial style. Your clients will thank you.



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