Here’s a sad story. A law firm received a great deal of offensive and pornographic spam. They had a spam filter, but a lot was still slipping by. Some offended employees complained. Even though this is not the fault of the law firm, I’m sure the complaints struck a nerve. You don’t want your employees exposed to something that offends them and one wonders if the situation could give rise to a hostile work environment claim. So they dial up their spam filter and then miss an e-mailed court notice of a hearing. As a result the judge hit them with an order requiring them to pay the costs and the fees of the opposing counsel who appeared at the hearing, a sum thought to be several thousand dollars.
A stunning thing about this story was a quote from a lawyer-technologist who disdained the use of whitelisting tools because they had to be "manually maintained." As most readers know, a whitelist feature would allow e-mail for certain users to go through to the recipient, no matter what it triggered in the spam filter. All federal bankruptcy and district courts now use CM/ECF (Case Management/Electronic Case Filing) and notices of filed pleadings go out via e-mail.
OK, here’s a law practice tip you can take to the bank, folks. if you practice in any CM/ECF court, your spam filter needs to have a whitelist feature and you need to use it for every court that may send you an e-mail notice. Like it or not, once you have "agreed" to receive notices via e-mail, you just can’t plead "my spam filter ate my homework." If your spam filter cannot do that, then you need a new one. Sometimes it might be as simple as adding a sender’s address to your contacts to get it whitelisted. I’m not saying it will be that easy for everyone. I about blew a gasket the other day when my spam filter told me there was a limit of 250 and I had to delete someone to be able to add someone. But you don’t have a choice. The argument that it is too big a burden to manually maintain a whitelist was not persuasive to this judge nor will it be to others,