I am driving to work. It’s 10 degrees Fahrenheit in Traverse City Michigan. In celebration of the cold air that is rushing through our area, solidifying winters grip, I give you a list of the 13 worst things about hourly billing:
1. Reducing lawyers to assembly line workers whose product is six-minute increments.
2. The feeling the lawyer gets in the pit of their stomach when they’re out to lunch with someone who’s not on the clock, or their spouse calls during the middle of the day disrupting and invading the number of six minute increments which can be billed in a single day.
3. The reality that a shitty lawyer can make a great living for the simple fact that they can fill out and fill up a time sheet.
4. The moment a client opens up an hourly bill and realizes that the last month effort just cost three times more than she expected for the entire project.
5. The built-in and often overwhelming incentive built into the hourly system for lawyers to spin their wheels on otherwise low value or even meaningless activities.
6. The simple fact that each lawyer task is valued at exactly the same rate irrespective of quality.
7. The fact that your client doesn’t want to call you to tell you what important things are going on, because they don’t want to incur a .50 time entry.
8. The fact that every conversation with the client you must avoid topics like “how’s your family” because of the uneasiness created as to whether or not the client will get billed for telling you the answer.
9. The simple fact that the lawyer’s incentive is to keep the matter alive, so it can billed, while the client’s interest is to solve the problem and end the matter.
10. The pain and grief that is caused when any person begins to think of his or her life as measured in six-minute increments.
11. The disincentive to create efficiencies within the business model of law when all that matters is an eight-hour day.
12. The fact that the brightest and best new lawyers are taught to think like stop watch, rewarded for the same, and become blind to the thought of measuring value.
13. The lack of incentive and reward in the hourly bonus formulas for anything beyond hours billed and hours collected.
Can you think of other items that should be on this list? Especially if you are stuck in an hourly billing system, you know better than anyone what might be missing from this list. I encourage you to add to the list by way of comment, send this to your friends, and post it to your blogs. Let’s see if we can get the most comprehensive list of hourly billing negatives going on the web. After we get the list in place, we’ll turn it into a poll and see if we can rate them and identify the number 1 negative impact of hourly billing.