People such as you and I — we who spend many happy hours preparing to try and occasionally trying business lawsuits — often find ourselves needing, of all things, the email addresses of other people.
Think about it. All but antediluvian lawyers, and pre-antediluvian clients, use email these days. Witnesses send and receive it. A great many probably overemploy it, preferring the cool distance of typing to the warmth of human interaction, the spontaneity of pounding out a message and hitting "send" to the less impulsive process of giving due thought to a writing that will likely outlive the author and may haunt him in the afterlife.
In the context of commercial lawsuits, email inescapably is an important source of evidence and a near-essential means of communication.
So, you ask, what’s the big deal about knowing email addresses? Why do you need them?
Thank you for inquiring. Blawgletter can think of at least three reasons:
- The Internet, though otherwise brilliant, isn’t smart enough to deliver an email to an email address that doesn’t exist. email@example.com will not work if Hogwarts uses a different convention for individuals’ names (the "harry_potter" part) or for the domain name (the "hogwarts.edu" bit). More on that below.
- Knowing the correct email address of a witness may help you search electronic files for relevant documents. With so much discovery taking the form of electronically stored information, searching through millions of pages usually involves using key words. An email address could be an important key word for these searches, not only when you look through the other side’s documents but also when you review your own client’s. But, again, you need the address exactly right before it’ll do you much good.
- The email address may enable you to locate and learn about witnesses. An increasing number of people nowadays have an electronic footprint. They blog; they post personal data on MySpace, LinkedIn, FaceBook, and the other social and networking sites; an organization publishes PowerPoint presentations they gave; newspaper, newsletter, and magazine articles mention them; property, court, and appraisal records name them; and on and on. Sometimes the email address will return the best search results; but firstname.lastname@example.org , harry_potter, or even @hogwarts.edu plus "Harry Potter" are far more likely to yield the Harry Potter you want than Googling "Harry Potter".
You can probably imagine many more reasons to get the right email addresses of clients, lawyers, witnesses, and others.
But how do you actually obtain them? Before we tell you, please recall that you swore an oath to use your knowledge and skills for good and not evil.
Very well then. To get accurate email addresses for a specific individual, do this:
- Go to your favorite search engine. Most people like Google. Yahoo!, Dogpile, the search functions on web browsers such as Explorer, Safari, and Firefox, and other engines will work fine too.
- If you know where the person works or worked, search for for the employer’s name, go to its principal Internet site, and note the site’s domain name. Here, hogwarts.edu.
- Next, search for the domain name — in our example, hogwarts.edu. You may want to put the "@" at the front just in case the search engine recognizes that as a distinct character (something Google seems not to do).
- The search will probably return lots of responsive references, but you should look for ones that — Voilà! — include email addresses that use the domain name. Note which protocol the email addresses use: First name only (email@example.com)? Just last name (firstname.lastname@example.org)? First initial plus last name (email@example.com)? First name plus last name (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org)? Formal names (email@example.com)? Or some other variation?
- Now search for the domain name plus the person’s name. If that doesn’t work, do a search for different possible variations of the actual email address using the protocol you discovered in step 4. Should you learn from the search that Hogwarts assigned firstname.lastname@example.org to Harry Potter’s friend Ron Weasley, you might start by searching for email@example.com.
- Should you still not have the email address, the final thing you can do is start sending emails to the email addresses that seem most likely in light of the protocol. Again resorting to our example, we’d imagine that firstname.lastname@example.org could make a good start. If the email bounces back, read the error message in the bounceback alert. If it says no such address exists, that likely means that you need to try another address, still using the protocol that Hogwarts typically uses.
These methods won’t always succeed of course. Some organizations have firewalls and filters, for example, that don’t allow emails from addresses they don’t recognize as safe. But we bet you’ll get decent results more often than not.