To most of us e-mail is the tool we take for granted. It allows us to communicate with clients; advocates and opposing parties, easily and efficiently. Just pause and think what it took to get a letter out to a client before e-mail …. Dictation followed by a secretary typing out the letter; checking the letter; dictating changes; secretary makes the changes; send the letter via Docex… what a mission! So we are all better off thanks to e-mail. E-mail makes the simple things in our business transactions …simple!
In various visits to prospective clients, I am routinely shocked to my core when I find an attorney who does not even use his/her own e-mail. As unbelievable as this may sound there are still those who have e-mails printed out and left on their desks. They then make changes or dictate the changes which are attended to by the poor overworked secretary!
For the majority of attorneys though, e-mail is the first piece of software that has become (almost) universally acceptable. The reason e-mail works for so many previously computer illiterate people, can be summarised as follows:
- E-mail is key to what we all do daily. It is the "currency" of doing business in the modern world.
- The software that drives the use of e-mail is intuitive; very user friendly and consists of a minimum of features - all of which are essential:
a. An inbox which is automatically sorted by days; weeks and then months.
b. An outbox - exactly the same.
c. A drafts folder for the 'work in progress' items…..sometimes a good place to put those angry e-mails before thinking better of your rant and then wisely deciding to delete them!
d. A minimum of key buttons - send; reply; reply to all (USE WITH CAUTION); forward.
- If you only use the above "features" of an e-mail program you will be more than capable of communicating with anyone in the world in an instant…. quite remarkable if you were explaining this to someone who had just awoken from a 20 year coma!!!
Step one…using e-mail….Step two…making it pay!
So we have established that e-mail is indispensible. Two main problems now arise out of this indispensability:
- How to bill for both sending and receiving mails (perusal charges - remember those?).
- How and where to store the e-mail for easy retrieval.
How to Bill for Sending and Perusing E-mails
You would think that this is so simple. The reality is that I rarely bump into an attorney or their support staff who bill either accurately or consistently for e-mails. I virtually never come across attorneys that bill for perusing mails. Yet….would you have ever opened a letter and read that letter without considering a perusal charge?
Many attorneys come up with the "solution" of putting in a globular charge for "correspondence" or "postage and petties". This is an inadequate solution because it is most often not enough. It is not detailed and cannot be justified. If the client questions these globular sums, the attorney will very often feel obliged to give a discount or will never see the client again and will be referred to at all dinner parties after this little interaction as a "charlatan and rip-off artist"!
So what do we suggest?
- You should have a system in place which links/integrates your e-mail and your billing system.
- This integration should be seamless and by that we mean users should not be working in the e-mail package (often Microsoft Outlook) and then have to remember to go and capture the fee in another package (the billing system).
- Manual billing systems are a total waste of time and you can reliably expect to miss many fees if you expect staff to write a fee down in a fee book or worse, go through the file periodically to try and catch fees days; weeks and in most cases, months later!
GhostPractice provides the Ultimate e-mail Management Solution
Store and bill for all outgoing e-mails with a minimum of fuss
- If you are sending an e-mail or attaching a letter to an outgoing mail, then you send that mail from within GhostPractice. Microsoft Outlook will load automatically with the letter attached.
- You complete the mail and GhostPractice attaches a copy of the outgoing mail, with all attendant attachments, to the matter.
- Before the user who has sent the mail has an opportunity to forget to bill for this item, a GhostPractice screen pops up in Microsoft Outlook and asks the user to enter either the time; folio or page units (alternatively the mail can be recorded as a note or under an "Unbillable" fee code. The fee is calculated and stored as an "Unbilled" or "Unbillable" fee on the matter. This fee does not and will not attract VAT until a VAT Invoice is produced on that particular matter!
- The above scenario could not be easier. You need not be an expert computer user to achieve this - you are only required to be able to operate a standard e-mail application such as Microsoft Outlook - just imagine how much easier it will be to:
o Find the mails on particular matters. Just enter the matter number or matter description and you will have instant access to all mails and their related attachments for that matter.
o Bill for all outgoing mails without anyone involved in servicing clients ever forgetting this valuable fee item!
Store and bill for all incoming e-mails with a minimum of fuss
- What about mails that are coming into the practice? These are just as important from either storage or billing perspectives (perusal charges).
- Again it is vital that users are encouraged to store and bill for this valuable "currency". The process is wonderfully simple with GhostPractice installed:
o When GhostPractice is loaded on your computer, a GhostPractice button is automatically added to your Microsoft Outlook toolbar.
o While working in Microsoft Outlook (and without having to leave Outlook), you can attach any incoming mail to a matter:
* Select on the mail message you want to attach.
* Click "Save to GhostPractice"
* A GhostPractice screen will pop up with a matter field and search facility.
* Either search for the matter or enter the matter number to which you would like to attach the mail.
* The mail is automatically attached and the user prompted to enter the time; folio or page units for the perusal charge!
Whether the e-mail is outgoing or incoming, you are naturally building up a complete electronic file for each matter. Your billing is accurate and comprehensive.
No matter what happens to your mail store in your mail program(these things can corrupt when they grow too large, you can inadvertently delete important mails or battle to find them via the search facilities), you are always safe with the mails stored against the matter in the GhostPractice database - a database designed to handle and store vast amounts of mission critical business data!
In short, we all acknowledge the importance of e-mail in our businesses. Most of us can also admit to varying degrees of "under-recovery" when it comes to billing for outgoing or incoming mails. Anyone who has tried to find a mail for a fairly old matter will also testify to the fact that it is never as simple as it should be!
If you would like to see a real, simple solution to all these challenges - then feel free to contact the writer on 082 568 4738 so that we can arrange for an obligation free presentation of this spectacular piece of software!
Yours in Law
GhostPractice National Sales Manager