Quarterbacking Success in a Challenging Field: Every team needs a quarterback, especially when that team is composed of attorneys,... Helping Clients Navigate a Challenging Legal System: “ We bring the same power,resources, experience, and novelapproach to every case we... How to Get More Law Firm Reviews Online: With all the stories we hear of identity theft and security breaches these days, it can... 5 Lessons for Law Firm Marketers From HubSpot’s INBOUND 2017 Conference: I know some folks within law firms are wary of attending marketing conferences outside of... Are You a Networking Rock Star or Rookie?: If you’ve read my book The Attorney’s Networking Handbook, you probably know that I... San Diego Personal Injury Attorneys Motivated to Care: “The most important thing is that you care about what you do. As an attorney I care... COMBINING HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS WITH TECHNOLOGY’S ADVANCES: Anthony Geraci, founder of Geraci Law Firm, believes the path to success in the coming... Networking: How To Disengage From a Dead-End Conversation: We’ve all found ourselves trapped in a dead-end conversation at a networking event.... What’s New in Structured Settlements? A Lot!: Structured settlements became a popular alternative to lump sum settlements in the 1970s.... Written Schedule of Services and Fees Multiplies Credibility, Increases Client Comfort: How do you present fees in a way that emphasizes the value of your services and takes the...
Executive Presentations-468x60-1

Death of the Billable Hour: A Eulogy

Last month, I participated on a panel at the 2016 Futures Conference. My assigned task was to discuss whether the billable hour would finally be dead by 2026. That got me thinking about the future event that would mark the passing of the billable hour as we know it. Would there be a final hourly invoice, billed and paid by a client, signifying the system's demise? Would there be a funeral for the billable hour? And if so, who would be there to eulogize it and what would that sound like?

The eulogy might sound something like this:

We are gathered here today to honor and pay our respects to William "Able" Hour, or "Bill" as many of us came to know him.
Bill Hour had a long career, providing many with joy and others with hand-wringing over the intended and unintended negative consequences he created. Bill would regularly and effortlessly put the client’s interests in conflict with those of lawyers.
He was very adept at hiding the true cost of a project and shunned providing clients with any level of predictability.
Bill Hour would take great pride in promoting redundancy and over-lawyering.
His knack for having clients pick up the tab for process inefficiencies, bill padding and training was unmatched.
I recall a time when Bill and I were returning from a client’s office. We had just landed a very important project, and I asked Bill if we should develop a budget, project plan or timeline that would identify key milestones. Bill assured me, with a wink and a smile, there was no need as he “had it covered.”

ALAS, THE DEATH OF THE BILLABLE HOUR IS NOT TO BE
I believe the billable hour will still be alive in 2026. How so? A few drivers are keeping the billable hour alive, including:

  • An unwillingness by some law firms (or partners within firms) to offer pricing alternatives.
  • A law firm dependence on billable hour targets.
  • Cost accounting that typically drives law firm profitability calculations.
  • Clients that are still more comfortable with billable hour arrangements.
  • Clients addicted to the billable hour data they mine internally or receive from their e-billing vendors, allowing for simple quantitative comparisons.
  • Sophisticated or complex legal work that warrants an hourly billing arrangement.

But there are some changes we should see over the next 10 years:

  • An increase in legal services and products as subscriptions.
  • Less emphasis on billable hour targets at firms.
  • Law firm business models that don't rely on the billable hour to calculate profitability.
  • A growing number of clients that favor outcome or valuebased metrics and rely less on some quantitative metrics like hourly billing rates.

Kevin Bielawski

Kevin Bielawski has 20 years of experience in the legal industry in various financial roles. As director of Legal Project Management & Strategic Pricing at Husch Blackwell, he consults with firm partners and clients to identify business objectives, value perspective, process inefficiencies and assist with solution development and implementation. He regularly leads the execution of fee arrangements that meet clients' budget demands. Kevin is a Certified Project Management Professional and a Legal Lean Sigma White Belt. Previously published in Attorney at Work.

More Posts

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)
PDF24    Send article as PDF   

Filed Under: Featured StoriesMarketing

About the Author: Kevin Bielawski has 20 years of experience in the legal industry in various financial roles. As director of Legal Project Management & Strategic Pricing at Husch Blackwell, he consults with firm partners and clients to identify business objectives, value perspective, process inefficiencies and assist with solution development and implementation. He regularly leads the execution of fee arrangements that meet clients' budget demands. Kevin is a Certified Project Management Professional and a Legal Lean Sigma White Belt. Previously published in Attorney at Work.

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Leave a Reply

  • Polls
    Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.