“The billable hour ain’t dead, folks…It’s going to be around for a long time.”
So said Robert Denney, head of a management and marketing group that deals with law firms and other organisations, to the Delaware Valley Law Firm Marketing Group.
Denney pointed to a recent survey that found that 75 per cent of general counsel ranked their firms poorly when it came to the willingness to change the business models they are used to operating under.
The Legal Intelligencer’s Full story, with more law school trends, is here.
Part of that long-living model, of course, is the billable hour. Ever since Cravath’s head partner, Evan Chessler, called for us all to Kill The Billable Hour, the need to move away has been topic number one reagarding firm fees. Those cries for change increased when the economy collapsed and in house counsel demanded lower fee bills.
And there has been evidence that people are using alternative billing methods — Microsoft said it was asking all outside counsel to explore alternative billing methods and Levi Strauss announced an aggressive flat rate agreement with it’s firm Orrick.
When Orrick’s deal was revealed, the WSJ Law Blog’s Ashby Jones predicted 2010 would be the year of the flat fee arrangements.
We kind of hope we’re wrong — the billable hour is a miserable method that almost no one actually enjoys participating in — but we disagree. The industry has been talking about this for a year (and frankly, forever), and we have just a few examples of big firms and big companies who have pulled the trigger.
Those firms that have operated primarily under alternative or contingent billing methods will continue to do so and others will continue to dabble.
The billable hour will remain king for the foreseeable future, even if princely deals pop up every now and again.
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