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Reducing Costs with e-Mail

25 February 2003

It is generally believed that sending a fax costs around R25. Letters probably cost more.

If we take into account all the costs involved:
* putting the fax together,
* printing it (paper and toner),
* waiting in a queue to send the fax,
* and paying the phone charges,
twenty five rand is probably a conservative estimate! By far the biggest component of this cost is time; we all know that labour (time) is the law firm's biggest cost.

Compare this process with e-mail. If you use email, there are:
* no printing costs,
* no phone charges,
* no queues at the fax machine,
* no delays.

Benefits of e-mail
A few seconds after you send your e-mail, your client receives it. E-mail therefore costs a lot less than faxing; however, it also has other benefits.

Benefit 1:
With e-mail, you can send a message to a group of people, improving in-office communication: fewer meetings and fewer misunderstandings.
Benefit 2:
Your clients can also communicate with you far more easily.
Benefit 3:
You can also use e-mail to keep clients updated as to the progress on their matters - improving service levels and winning repeat business.

Despite all the benefits, some firms are still not using e-mail.

Resistance to e-mail
If you consider older partners of the firm, they are afraid of computers (until their son or daughter goes overseas, then they become instant touch-typists!). Other firms want a paper trail for every single thing that happens in their firm. But, you can print out e-mails and/or request a confirmation notice verifying that it has been received and opened by the recipient. Some firms even perceive e-mail to be expensive!

Many firms have a single general office e-mail address - this is simply inefficient. Every partner and every professional (including conveyancing secretaries) should have an e-mail address, to increase efficiency and productivity.

The case for e-mail
In the old days, (five years ago), firms that embraced e-mail were perceived as being high-tech and progressive. Today, firms that aren't accessible by e-mail are regarded as slow. With modern software systems (such as conveyancing software), sending e-mails and SMS messages can be automated - keeping your clients updated on the progress of their matters, and reducing your firm's costs of communication. This means fewer queries on the phone - which saves time.

If you still aren't convinced of the benefits of e-mail, do a simple calculation for your firm: How many faxes does your practice send out?
Multiply this by R25. You'll get a pretty good idea of how much money e-mail could save your firm!

Another convincing case for e-mail is that it can reduce the number of phone calls you make. As you know, the cost of telephone calls (especially if you're calling a cellphone) is going through the roof! What's more, with e-mail you are always available to clients and colleagues - there's no need for "telephone tag" and e-mail will reduce the number of interruptions in your working day. Regardless of the time, clients can still communicate with your firm.

BA LLB (e-mail)?
Some partners prefer their secretaries to receive and send their e-mails for them, largely because they are afraid of computers. The truth is that using e-mail is easy - anyone can do it. Besides, who would believe that someone with a law degree couldn't learn to use e-mail?

The don'ts of e-mail
However, you need to bear some negative aspects in mind when using e-mail. Don't send a message to anyone if it contains emotion. If you're angry with someone, or hurt, or you wish to discipline someone, don't do this via e-mail. Rather discuss such things with them personally, or if you can't do that, call them on the telephone.

Don't fear that the recipient can modify the letter or e-mail on receipt and expose them. While this is true for some documents, it is not true for 99% of the documents or e-mails that are sent out. There are ways to lock documents so they can't be changed, but if someone really wants to, they can modify even a paper copy - using Tippex and a photocopier! It is quite strange how we have never required security with letters or faxes, but the minute a computer is involved, we need all kinds of protection!

The bottom line is that firms that don't use e-mail are wasting money. We realise that some documents have to be sent by fax, so fax machines aren't completely obsolete. However, firms that aren't using e-mail are isolating themselves to such an extent that their financial well-being may be threatened.

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