Listserv Tool

The Listserv tool is an e-communication device that allows users to send messages to other users. This resource is broken down into the following sections.

The Listservs page divides content into Area Lists and Other Important Lists. Area Lists are those created by and for a practice area. Other Important Lists are externally created and hosted, and made available on a PBN practice area for members to join.

See screenshot below of a sample listserv page and the information each listserv displays with it:

Along with a title and description, each listserv entry displays details relevant to whomever is viewing the page. However, like other tools on, the listserv tool can be set-up in front of a password or behind a password. If the listerv tool is password protected, only members of the site can see the listserv.

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How to Add a Listserv

Click add a list at the top of the right column of the screen. There will be two forms for you to fill out:

  1. General Settings, where you set the listserv's title, description, topics and member restrictions; and
  2. Manage Members, where you set up its moderators and manage its memberships.

Here are some tips for filling in the fields on the General Settings page:

Make sure that the title is descriptive and clear, both for you and for potential listserv members.

External List
Select "yes" if you are adding an External List, i.e., one not hosted by you. Because External Lists are hosted elsewhere, the Internal Settings fields will not need to be filled out.

Enter a description of the listserv. If it is external, you should include instructions for joining it, possibly providing a link for users to send a subscription request to.

  • TIP: You can use the FCKEditor tool bar to format your text, e.g., add bold or italics, insert hyperlinks, bullet lists or photos. Click the help iconto read what the tool bar functions do. (See Appendix A for tips on getting the best results from FCKEditor.)

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Administrator Icons

Admins may see two possible icon notifications next to the name of internal listservs.

This icon indicates that there are pending subscription requests for approval. Clicking this icon will take an administrator directly to the Manage Members page.
This icon indicates that there are pending messages for approval. This icon will only appear for moderated listservs. Clicking this icon will take an administrator directly to the Manage Members page, where they can approve pending messages.

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Subscription Options

When a user clicks the subscribe link beside a listserv, three subscriptions options appear:

  • Email Subscription plus online archive: With this option, every message posted to the listserv also gets sent to the user's email address. If the user is an area member (or if the Listserv tool is public) s/he will also have access to the online archive of list messages.
  • Daily Digest: This option creates a digest version of listserv messages once a day. Digests are sent out around midnight Eastern Time and include all messages from the previous day.
  • Online Archive only (No Email): Users will not receive list messages by email, but may read and post directly on the online archive.

When a subscribed users clicks on the change subscription link beside a listserv, they will have an additional option available to unsubscribe.

  • TIP: These subscription options are currently only available for lists that have the "Allow users to subscribe online" option chosen in the Internal List Settings.

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Internal List Settings

This is the email account to which people send listserv messages. Try to create aliases that are descriptive and memorable, and be sure not to exceed 100 characters. Examples of good aliases are "sfhousing" or "nyfamilyjustice." If the email address/alias is already in use, the system will return a message saying so.

Auto Join Members?
Checking this box will automatically join all approved members of your Practice Area to this listserv, as well as all who subsequently join your site. Existing members will receive a subscription approved email immediately.

Here are some things to keep in mind about auto joining members:

  • Be conservative in auto-joining members. Doing so will add users to the listserv regardless of user type or whether they want to be joined--although, if you restrict the listserv to specific user types, only those members will see the list.
  • If you do choose to auto-join your practice area members, we suggest you have no more than one auto-join listserv to minimize alienating your site members with unsolicited emails.
  • When a member is auto-joined, they become email and archive members, meaning they will receive any new postings to the list as email messages in their inbox, and they will see the archive link next to the title of the listserv. If they wish to receive no emails and only view new message postings via the site's archive link, they will need to change their subscription type by clicking the change subscription link beside the listserv.
  • Auto-joined members may unsubscribe to your list by going to the Listserv page and clicking change subscription. We suggest that you use the Subscribe Message Body field or the List Footer field (both below) to clearly inform people about this feature.

Allow users to subscribe online
Checking this box will allow new users to subscribe to the listserv through a link on your practice area's Listservs page; if you select "no", new users can only subscribe via an email message sent to a specific automated account.

  • TIP: To subscribe, unsubscribe and send messages from offline, i.e., via an email message sent to the listserv, use these addresses:
    SUBSCRIBE: [alias]
    UNSUBSCRIBE: [alias]
    SEND A MESSAGE: [alias]

Moderate Messages
Checking this box directs all messages sent to the listserv first to the moderator(s) for approval. Messages must be approved before they will be delivered to the list.

  • NOTE: Messages sent from moderators are delivered immediately and not considered for approval.

Reply To
When users click Reply in their email programs, their reply will go to the list if this box is checked. If left unchecked, the message goes directly to whomever posted it.

  • NOTE: If this option is left unchecked, when list members press Reply in their email client, they will reply only to the original sender. When the list members press Reply All in their email client, they will reply to the original sender and to everyone on the listserv.

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List Texts

Subscribe Message Subject
New members are automatically sent an introductory email when they subscribe to each list. This field indicates the subject header for this email.

Subscribe Message Body
This field allows the administrator to create and edit the text of the welcome email message sent to new members when they subscribe to a listserv.

  • TIP: We suggest that you use the subscribe email also to inform new members of the listserv's purpose and goals as well as any rules or etiquette governing using the listserv. Even if new members don't actually read the rules initially, this creates a written record for later reference.

List Footer
This text will appear at the bottom of each email.

  • TIP: The footer is commonly used to remind the user of how to unsubscribe from the list. The email address to use for this is: [alias]

Try to keep the footer text as brief as possible because as users reply to emails, the footers tend to accrue and add unnecessary length to messages.

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Access Restrictions

Select who will see your list on the Listservs page. Keep in mind that if your Listserv tool is password-protected--meaning only logged in site members can see its content--a No Restriction listserv will be hidden from public users because they will not be able to access the Listserv page in the first place.

No Restriction
All site visitors, regardless of whether they are members of the site or the listerv, can see your list and access the archives (provided your listerv tool is in front of the password). If your listserv tool is behind a password, then non-members of the site will not be able to see the lists. However, this will allow non-members of the listserv and members of the site to see the lists and access the archives.

Restricted to Members
Members of both the list and the site will see the list and the archive (even if it's published on a public Listservs page it will only display to logged-in members). Those who are members of the site, but not members of the list will be able to see the list, but will not be able to access the list archives.

Allow access by these members
Only the user type(s) you select will see the list. To select more than one, hold down the CTRL key on your keyboard as you click.

The default status is Awaiting Approval.You will need to switch the listservs status to Approved to publish it to your Listserv page.

  • Listservs marked Awaiting Approval, Deleted or another status will not be accessible via your Admin Inbox. If you have marked a listserv with a status other than Approved and need to access it, please contact your Circuit Rider/PBN contact.
  • NOTE: Messages posted to an active or "Approved" listserv will be returned in search results. If you subsequently make your listserv inactive by changing its status to "Deleted" or "Awaiting Approval," its messages will no longer be available for searches.

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Area topics

NOTE: All content, from library materials to calendar events to news stories, must be tagged with one or more Topics. Choose topics carefully because the advanced search feature allows people to search by topic and thus find your listserv according to how you've tagged it. Take these steps to assign topics:

  • Topic: Select a topic from the drop down list and it will appear in the box below labeled Available Topics/Sub-Topics. Listservs do not have Subtopics available for tagging; this is for Library items only.)
  • Available Topics/Sub-Topics: Double-click the topic in this second box OR select it and hit the down arrow below the box. The item now appears in the 3rd box labeled Assigned.
  • Assigned: Whatever appears in this box is what you're choosing to tag your listserv with. To remove an assigned topic, highlight it and either double-click, or hit the UP arrow above the box.

Click Submit to post the new listserv and the second form, Manage Members, will automatically come up.

TIP: If you do not see the item you just posted it's more than likely that the Status was not set to Approved. Listservs marked Awaiting Approval, Deleted or another status will not be accessible via your Admin Inbox. If you have marked a listserv with a status other than Approved and need to access it, please contact your Circuit Rider/PBN contact.

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Manage Members

After you click Submit, you will find yourself on a second form, Manage Members. See partial screenshot below:

This form contain the following options:

Download Active Member list
This link allows you to download a list of subscribers in CSV format. You can save this file on your computer and import it into Excel to view it as a spreadsheet.

Pending Memberships
This field contains pending subscribe requests. To reject or approve a member, select their email address in the list and click the appropriate button.

Area Members
This field lists current practice area members of the listserv. Administrators can remove subscribers by selecting their names and clicking the "Remove Selected Area Members" button immediately below this field.

External Members
Here you'll find people who have subscribed to the listserv via the subscribe email command. Users can join a listserv in this manner even if they are not members of the Practice Area hosting the listserv. Administrators can remove subscribers by selecting their names and clicking the "Remove Selected External Members" button immediately below this field.

  • NOTE: If an admin deletes a practice area member and that member is also a listserv Area Member, the listserv membership will be changed to External Member. That person will still need to be removed from each listserv as a separate step.

The listserv's moderator(s) show here. Add additional moderators by entering an email address in the first text field and clicking Add Moderator. To remove a moderator, select an email address in the second text box and click Remove Selected Moderators.

  • NOTE: If the moderator is a list member, removing their moderator privileges will not unsubscribe them from the list.

Bulk Import
This tool allows administrators to rapidly subscribe a large list of email addresses. Email addresses can be entered directly into the text box or copied and pasted from an external list. Addresses that are associated with current members of this area will be added as area members. All other email addresses will be added as external members.

  • TIP: Make sure to place each email address on its own line.

Send Subscription Notification(s)
If this box is checked, the list's welcome email will be sent to all addresses entered in the Bulk Import text area. If this box is not checked, members will be not receive an email indicating that they are subscribed to the list.

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Email-Based Commands

In addition to the web-based interface, the listservs tool recognizes several email-based commands, allowing more efficient management of certain tasks and making listservs available to individuals who are not members of the practice area in question. The listservs tool currently accepts the following email commands:

by sending an email to [alias] The system will ignore any text in the body or subject line of this email.

by sending an email to [alias] The system will ignore any text in the body or subject line of this email.

  • TIP: Replace [alias] with the alias of the appropriate listserv (for example, if members emailed messages to a given listserv at, users could subscribe by sending an email to and unsubscribe by sending an email to

Subscribe to List Digest
by sending an email to [alias]

Send Email to list Moderator(s)
by using [alias] to send messages only to list moderator(s).

Approve New Member
by opening the appropriate notification email, hitting the "reply" button, and sending the message with no modifications.

  • TIP: Alternately, an admin can send an email to [alias] with "approval" and "(ref:#)" in the subject line. Replace the "#" with the reference number that displays in the subject line of the notification email. An example of how such a subject line looks is: "New member approval request (ref:115)."

It doesn't matter what order "approval" and "(ref:#)" occur in the subject line, or even whether there are other words in it.

Retrieve Member List
Moderators can send a blank email to [alias] to retrieve a list of all list members.

After sending a blank email to this address, a CSV file will be emailed to the list moderator. This CSV file can be imported into programs Microsoft Excel. This command only works for list moderators.

It is helpful to include instructions on using the appropriate email command to unsubscribe in the List Footer, discussed above ("To unsubscribe, send a message to: [alias]" for example). If administrators intend the list to have a broad membership and expect list postings to be distributed in other settings, including similar instructions for subscribing can help encourage new members to join.

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Tips for Composing a Message

1) Send a link to the online version of the newsletter, article or item of interest instead of sending the full HTML version in the body of the message
2) Use a URL shortener tool such at when sending very long links

NOTE:  You have two options to send messages - either through your email client to the listserv alias email or directly through the listserv tool archive itself, under "new message"

Can users email attachments to mailing lists?

Listserv users may attach most common files types to a listserv email. Files can be sent as normal email attachments from their email client or by uploading them through the online archive.

  1. Up to seven separate attachments may be sent in one email.
  2. Up to three separate attachments may be sent by posting to the online archive.
  3. The total size of all attachments may not exceed 25 MB (megabytes). If the message exceeds 25 MB, the system will not distribute the email to the list.
  • TIP: Many email providers limit attachments to 10 MB and will not accept messages that exceed this limit. Even though the advocate template's mailing lists have a higher limit, administrators may want to suggest that their users limit their attachments to 10 MB per message in their terms of use. You can also suggest splitting large groups of files into multiple messages.

Users can send most common file types. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Microsoft Office (.doc, .xls, .ppt, etc.) (though not Office 2007 files - .docx, .xlsx, .pptx)
  • Adobe Acrobat (.pdf)
  • WordPerfect (.wps)
  • Images (.jpg, .gif, .png, etc.)
  • Compressed Zip (.zip) files.

Users are prevented from sending file types that could run programs when opened or contain viruses, spyware or other dangerous software. These file types include .exe, .js, .bat, .vbs and other file types that can execute programs on a user's computer when opened.

  • TIP: If a user wishes to share a program with the group, administrators can suggest that they send a link to a website where other users can choose to download the program. Many organizations have strict IT policies about installing software. Sending a link lets other users consult their IT policies before running a potentially dangerous program.

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How does the system handle "Bounce Backs"?

Administrators can view listserv bouncebacks in the "Manage bouncebacks" link. Administrators can unsubscribe users who have an undesired number of bouncebacks from the listserv. 

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