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E-mail economics – reduce unnecessary copy all and send all

Let’s apply activity based costing (ABC) to an innocent little e-mail that squirts out to all the lawyers in a 50-lawyer department. The secretary who sent it – a short note about the upcoming departure party for someone – spent all of five minutes dashing it off, but 50 lawyers, who each cost the company about $180 an hour, spent 30 seconds per person reading or deleting it. That e-mail, which racked up $75 in lawyer reader time (ignoring the interruption loss) also sets in train extra costs of storage, bandwidth, and filtering. Worse, what if one or two recipients inadvertently “reply all,” and thereby ring up another multiple of $75? Now, extrapolate economics such as these to all the messages sent in a law department by e-mail.

As noted in the NY Times, June 4, 2006 at BU9, with perhaps some exaggeration, “people who are not authorized to spend $100 on their own are authorized to send e-mails to people and waste hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of company time.”