Focus: 2007
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Are You Losing More Than Time in Your Inbox?

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.


Andrew Flusche

You made some good points in this post. I don't think we classify ALL of our email time as "waste." However, I also don't think it can ALL be classified as "client investment."

While I'm admittedly not yet a lawyer, I clerked at two big firms last summer. A lot of the email that hit my inbox was mailing list junk (tickets firm members were selling, events to attend, blah, blah). Very little of that classifies as "client investment." Another good portion was stuff that other firm members sent, playing around, joking, etc. Also, I'm sure everyone sends a few emails to their spouse or friends, arranging evening plans, coordinating things, etc.

My point is that we should take a moderate view of email time. A good portion of it is well-spent on real work and with clients. However, another good portion of it is really wasted. The key is to filter out the true waste and focus on the valuable emails.

Happy New Year,

Jay Fleischman

I agree that so much time is sucked from our day by virtue of reading and responding to e-mail. I've tried to minimize that "giant sucking sound" in my day by shutting down my e-mail program, opening it up only once every hour or so. I find that by shutting down the program I am able to resist the temptation that arises every time I see that little envelope icon in my taskbar.

I am also better able to focus my time on responding to e-mail by setting aside 10-15 minutes at a clip to the task, then going away to do something else.


Great observation Jay. I dictate many of my emails and responses for transcription by staff through my web mail account in order to reduce the time spent in my inbox. Another trick is that I use the 'flag feature' of outlook to note emails that need attention. I am able to see them quickly and come back to them later when I have more time. The email inbox is becoming a barrier to efficiency and organization.

Werner Patels

I agree that we waste way too much time. Even though we use spam filters, it happens only too often that non-spam messages end up in the junk folder. So before deleting the whole bunch, I always have to give it a quick run-through just to make sure.

Keeping in touch with business contacts, partners and clients by email, though is not wrong, and I agree with you that it's a valuable tool.

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