Many lawyers who don’t consider themselves “paperless” still prefer to electronically send documents to their clients or other parties. Most lawyers accomplish this task by using their email program. Email works great when the file is small. But it’s not as easy when the file is large. Most email programs allow users to send an attachment up to 10 MB, and a few others may stretch the limit to 25 MB. Below are some options for sending large files.
Compress files before emailingIf you want to email a big file, try compressing it first. File compression will shrink your file, making it easier and faster to send by email. PCs and Macs now have a built-in compression utility to compress files in .zip format. The .zip file format can be opened on most operating systems with no additional software, making the built-in compression utility very useful.
To zip a file on a PC:
- Open File Explorer to find the file you want to compress.
- Right-click on the file.
- Select Send to from the menu.
- Select Compressed (zipped) folder from the next menu.
- The original file will be left where it is, and a zipped version of the file will appear in the same location as the original. You can rename the zipped file or leave the name as is.
You can also zip multiple files. Just select the files by pressing the CTRL key and clicking on the files with the mouse. When all files are selected, right click and follow the steps above.
To zip a file on a Mac:
- Open a Finder window to find the file you want to compress.
- Control-click or right-click on the file.
- Select Compress from the pop-up menu.
- The zipped file will appear next to the original file and will have the word “compress” after the file’s name. If you select multiple files to zip, the resulting zipped file will appear next to the original files as “Archive.zip.
The zipped file is then ready for emailing. The recipient will need to save the zipped file somewhere on his or her computer and double-click on it to decompress it. If it’s a zipped folder in Windows, the recipient will need to right click on it and select ““Extract All” from the menu option.
The built-in compression apps in PCs and Macs are basic. So some people may prefer to purchase a third-party compression software like WinZip, WinRAR, or 7-Zip that have more features. Be mindful of a compatibility issue: the receiver of your compressed file will need software to open it if it is not in .zip format. This means that the recipient may need to purchase a third-party software or find and download a free one.
Cloud storage providersIf the zipped file is still too large to send by email, consider uploading it to a cloud storage service and sharing the file that way. Some popular services include Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, and OneDrive. Each provider has different ways for you to share files. The most common method is to email a public link of the file. Lawyers should be careful about sharing the link because, while the link isn’t advertised, anyone with the link can access the file. If the service offers visibility options so you can make the file accessible only to people with explicit permission, choose that option.
These popular services all offer free online cloud storage and file-sharing. If you’re sending client-sensitive or confidential information, you should upgrade to their paid business plan that gives you more security, more sharing controls, more customer service support, and other features not available in the free plan.
For those of you wary of using cloud storage providers that don’t offer client-side encryption, some zero-knowledge cloud storage services offer more security while letting you share files. Those services include SpiderOak, Sync.com, Tresorit, MEGA, pCloud, and TeamDrive. Read my blog post on the security of cloud storage providers here.
Paid file-sharing servicesAnother option is to pay for an online file-sharing service like HighTail, DropSend, or Citrix ShareFile. Besides letting you send big files, these services have features to control access to the file, letting you set an expiration date and tracking the delivery and download of the file. Citrix Sharefile not only lets you share large files, but you can also use it to encrypt your entire email (the message itself and attachment).
The services all offer a free trial so you can try them out before buying.
Secure client portalsOne other way to share large files with clients is to use a secure client portal already built into many practice management programs, such as Clio, CosmoLex, MyCase, PracticePanther, RocketMatter, SmokeBall, and Zola Suite. If you are already using one of these programs, give the portal a try.
Once you upload the file, you can share it by clicking on the “Share” button next to the file name and selecting the clients’ name from your contact list. The clients will receive an email notification. When they click on the link in the email, they will be taken to the portal to view or download the file.
A downside to using a secure portal is inconvenience. Clients must create an account and use their login information to access the portal. This process can be off-putting to some clients. You may need to explain to them how the benefits of the portal outweigh its drawback.