Home Business4Law Billing You’ve got mail!

You’ve got mail!

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You have mail

There is a gap. The gap is big and it is growing. This gap affects us daily and it needs to be addressed. We need to close this gap.

The gap exists between the attorney’s Fee Book and every day activities. 

As recently as five years ago, correspondence was mainly by snail mail. Letters were dictated and typed, signed and sent off in an envelope, to reach the client in a few days time. The simple act of creating correspondence was an involved task and physical evidence of the act remained on the paper file.  Communication was slow, formal and tangible. Whenever a bill was drawn up, each letter on the split pin in the file made it onto the invoice.

Today communication is very different. Communication is electronic, with email dominating the attorney-client communications environment. Use of instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp (remember that one?) and Telegram are on the rise. The result is simply that communication is online and more live than ever before, but this near instant communication has increased the gap. Communication occurs more frequently, but billing is less efficient.

This gap has a name. It is a Billing Gap. 

There is a clear gap where communication is concerned. On the one side stands the empty Fee Book.  On the other side email and instant messaging platforms. Like a ghost story, the skeletons of old email messages live on in your Inbox while unbilled email messages haunt your empty Fee Book.

Regardless of the underlying fee agreement, care should be taken to keep track of individual billable items. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. In certain instance every single email sent and received will and should find its way to the clients’ account. In other cases, a simple internal log of email sent and received will be sufficient. But, without an adequate inbox monitoring tool, keeping accurate record becomes tedious and inaccurate.

 In a law practice, your Inbox can easily become a FeeBox.

Attorneys indicate they send as many as 60 emails per day. Assuming that each email also has a response, that is a 120 emails per day, over several files. Most attorneys fall into one of three categories (a) those who do not count email and rarely bill for the email sent and received; (b) those who add generic Various emails sent entries to their bills, with no clear reference as to the actual number of messages and their dates and subjects. (c) those who meticulously keep accurate record of each message sent or received, its time and subject, creating a clear and accurate billing report of email correspondence in any given matter.

If the attorney sends 60 emails per day, at a nominal fee of R28.50 (no VAT) per item, that amounts to R1 710.00 worth of fees per day. Five working days results in R8 550.00. Four weeks results in R34 200.00 worth of fees. For email sent only. Double this amount for email received. Of course, not all messages can and should be billed for. But the vast majority of communication takes place by email, and this communication is billable. 

Emails per day 60 @ R28.50

Billing per day R1 710.00

Billing per week R8 550.00

Billing per month R34 200.00

Are you billing R34 200.00 per month for email sent?

Tariff published in GOVERNMENT GAZETTE 43592, dated 7 AUGUST 2020, Magistrates Court Scale A, under item 18 (page 38) allows for Correspondence fees R28.50.

Screenshot of client bill with automated fees for email sent and received.

There are several unproductive ways of keeping track of email. One is to keep a manual log book and write down each item, or type it into a spreadsheet. This needs to be interpreted and converted to a fee item at a later stage. Or, using an app, copy and paste directly from the email client to the billing app. This is faster, but requires discipline.

But there is a better way.  

It is no coincidence that Microsoft Outlook for Windows remains the most popular email client for business use. Outlook can be used with the MS Office suite including Word, Excel etc in smaller firms, or with an Exchange server for bigger business. Exchange Servers offer many benefits to bigger business, including powerful internal email management, but at cost typically beyond the budget of the average small business. Fortunately smaller firms can implement Outlook without the need for an Exchange Server. The Microsoft ecosystem is based on continued commitment to local app infrastructure as confirmed by the Office 365 local-app and cloud-data model, offering the best of both worlds in terms of user experience and secure shared data storage.

Imagine a billing tool that allows billing for email directly in your Fee Book, and bills the email accurately and immediately to the client. Imagine an accurate bill for every email message sent or received. There are only some many hours in a day. Spending additional time to manually update an account based on email is not worth it.

Bill for every email sent. Bill for every email received. Never miss a fee for an email, ever, again. The choice is yours.

If you are not billing for email, perhaps it is time to ask yourself the question Why are we not billing for email? Is it time to consider a billing tool that supports your daily activities? A tool which allows fast, accurate email activity billing? A tool which keeps your Fee Book up to date? 

The good news is that such a tool exists. Dynamic Lawyers Trust Account software is much more than simply a bookkeeping system for attorneys. Dynamic is also a billing tool, allowing fast, easy, reliable billing between Microsoft Outlook and the Fee Book. This makes Dynamic very affordable for the attorney in a small legal practice. Increased billing is the first step towards increased revenue, and eventually profit. Convert your Inbox into a FeeBox and drive revenue with Dynamic’s email billing.

If you are interested in what Dynamic’s Outlook interface can do for your bottom line, scan the QR tag below.

For implementing additional Outlook features, please contact us Outlook@DynamicLTA.com.

Dynamic Practice Management

1 COMMENT

  1. Great article, email by default should be charged for, the exceptions can then be addressed. Also, R28 is hardly an unfair charge!

    Clients also may think twice by sending a “Thank you” in a separate email 😉

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