I just stumbled onto a blog sponsored by a Larry Bodine and was skimming through some of his older posts to find this fascinating one titled "Lawyers Waste $80,000 a Year Reading E-mail". Read through the post to get his own commentary on the report that was released by the Edward Poll out of Venice, CA. Bodine brings up a great point about the loss of goodwill that would derive from the billing it would take to squeeze that $80,000 out of clients.
The question that arose while I was reading the post was whether or not "waste" is the correct term. E-mail gives us an unprecedented connection with our clients through the "rapidity of response that [they] encourage". A current client can take a moment to shoot us an email regarding a question or concern, and in almost that same amount of time we can generate a response. I strongly disagree with titling this connection as "waste", as there is a definite profit that arises from having that sort of availability for your clients.
I do not believe that it is too much of a stretch to title this $80,000 as "client investment". The personal connection that is created between the person in need of service, and the one providing the service through the medium of email is a connection that keeps our clients not only coming back, but also spreading the word about our firm.
So to those of you who may see the time that you spend sifting through your inbox as a hassle and waste, I caution you before you attempt to capitalize off of it with billable hours. The time you spend corresponding with your clients makes profit in a different way than the invoice you send them each month. Through email correspondence you create a relationship that will separate your firm from your competition and make single-case clients, long-term and consistent ones.