Jeremy Bierbach: Email manifesto

9 Jun, 2023 | News

Dear reader,

As of today, I am instituting a permanent automatic response to my email address to let people know that their email has indeed been received. This is meant to head off the questions “just wondering if you read my email”, “just wondering if my email got lost”, etc. which assume that if I had only read the email, I would have already taken the time to respond.

In that automatic response, I am also linking to this posting on my law firm’s website.

In short: I now admit that I am completely defeated by email. My inbox permanently hovers around 100, and by this I mean messages that I really would ideally like to respond to. At our firm, we do use a system to manage client files and email that encourages us to empty the inbox daily by turning emails into tasks or appointments, but I must admit that I still do not succeed in doing so during my available work hours. I do read all my emails, but I will not necessarily be able to respond– be aware that an email is often a request to do something that I do not yet have time to do. Note that if I cannot help you, I do usually respond within 24 hours! A lack of immediate response, on the other hand, means your email is on my “to-do” list. And I do try to respond as soon as possible to emails about active cases. Note that most of my backlog of responding to emails is related to the intake phase, when I am being approached with new inquiries. I aim to try to respond to those within a week, and I am increasingly using form emails for standard situations, with apologies for sounding impersonal.

I am therefore asking for the assistance of everyone who emails me to help me to manage the flow, and also to have a bit of empathy for my position in order to manage expectations.

To start with, emails that will not get a response are:

  • Requests for commercial cooperation or offers of services
  • Emails that have been sent to me in BCC (usually as a mass email to numerous other lawyers)
  • Introduction emails (I’ll wait for the person you are introducing me to to send their own email to me)

Emails that are difficult or less appealing for me to respond to are:

  • Emails from spammy-looking email addresses where the full name of the sender is not in the header (please be conscious of how your emails appear to strangers when you email them)
  • “Dear team” emails to everybody at this firm — please read our profiles and try to be selective.
  • Requests for a phone call (or emails with missing details that I’d like to ask about) that do not include a phone number (I am a big fan of the telephone, as a quick conversation can often be much more efficient than the back and forth of email– I will quite often literally “jump on a call”, by which I mean place an unscheduled call to absolutely any number in the world from our office landline, +31206631966 (go ahead and add it to your contacts), for clarifications — I will never call you from any other number or from an anonymous number. I will also not leave voicemails on un-setup voicemails, i.e. outgoing messages from a robot voice.)
  • Requests to call you back with WhatsApp or a video calling service (I do not share my mobile number with clients, so I can’t use WhatsApp for calling, and I can’t schedule a call with a video calling service if we haven’t at least already agreed to schedule a paid consult)
  • Emails asking a question about your personal legal situation that appear to be evasive on details, such as your exact nationality (it often does matter, so “I am a non-EU citizen” might not be enough information for me– I do not discriminate against people of any nationality, so please just say what your country of nationality is.) Note that you have complete confidentiality– even emails to me from a stranger are covered by my obligation of confidentiality and cannot be legally used as evidence against you.
  • Extremely complex emails with multiple questions and dependencies. While these don’t have the problem of being short on details, they may be partially based on false premises, making it hard for me to write a 3-minute response (this is the kind of email where I often pick up the phone to quickly call, if there’s a phone number in the email).

Feel free to say “disregard the previous email” if you send a new email with more details– it will be much appreciated that I can immediately delete the previous one.

Note that I do not read my email outside of normal working hours. I do not receive notifications on my mobile phone. I must actively log in to read my emails. So please also remember this when you email me on the weekend: in and of itself, you will not be bothering me in my free time, but you are adding something to my list of things to respond to when I come into the office on Monday morning. Again, feel free to say “disregard the previous email” and email me again during the week.

What I am available for:

  • Scheduled consults of an hour, for which my fee is €200.00 including VAT, can generally be booked about a month in advance. I am rarely available any sooner than that (keep in mind that I have a full workload at all times, and scheduled meetings and filings in active cases are my top priority). My usual slots that are available for consults, either in my office or by Zoom, are 1:30pm and 3:30pm, Tuesday through Thursday. So if you would like a consult, do please send me your available slots starting a month from now– I may go right ahead and send you a calendar invite. I do sometimes want to have a brief chat to see if there is a chance of me being able to help you before I will schedule you for a consult, so a telephone number is appreciated.
  • Is it about a rejection decision that you would like to appeal? I can probably handle that with priority. Please do email me a scan of the rejection decision (please don’t send me huge ZIP files or links to online drives– if I take on your case, I can set you up with a secure client portal to upload large files).
  • Application procedures for Dutch residence permits for non-asylum-related grounds (I try to quickly send form emails with my standard offerings if I have an idea of what type of residence permit you want to apply for), which do always have to begin with a consult (we do always have to meet and see each other, even if it’s by Zoom, and have a conversation to establish our attorney-client relationship).

If I don’t respond to your email about one of those things within the time that you would like to receive a response, or if you realize upon reading this that I might not be able to help you, please feel free to let me know that you will seek other counsel, so that I can remove your email from my to-do list.

What I am not available for:

  •  Giving advice on how you can file your own immigration application, or reviewing an application that you have put together yourself.


Best regards,
Jeremy Bierbach