Building client relationships is not a billing event. This first year of practice at my new firm certainly involves a lot of hours which were, under the old model, deemed as uncompensated. Reaching out to old and new clients, introducing them to our new billing model, preparing project proposals, creating legal extranet projects and populating them with initial data and status phone calls are all un-billed at our office. These are all things which build a foundation of client relationships.
Of course, once those relationships are established, the start-up costs of launching a new project for a client become less. Once you train a client how to use the extranet using "gotomeeting.com" you don't need to train them again. The next project that you bring online for them is easy and seamless.
I continue to spend time developing relationships. What I am seeing, however, is that by putting in that time and letting the client know that they don't have to pay for it I am distinguishing myself in the market and building a solid foundation for further work. As importantly, those very clients are telling their friends and other business owners about how we do what we do.
In many ways, we are investing in our future. To me, it makes all of the sense in the world. It is hard for me to understand the slash and burn mentality of law firms who gobble up client pocketbooks like a three year old who finds himself alone with a bag of chocolate chip cookies.