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The Nonsense of The Billable Hour

In an article he wrote for Forbes Magazine, Trial Attorney Evan R. Chesler, discusses a better way to bill clients by simply playing fair.

Kill the Billable Hour: Lawyers should bill the way Joe the Contractor does

I'm a trial lawyer. I bill by the hour. So do the associates who work for me. I have lots of clients, so I can pretty much work, and bill, as much as I want. This needs to be fixed. Yes, you read that correctly.
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So what am I proposing? For reasonable periods of time during the life of a lawsuit, say three months at a time, I should do what Joe does: identify the client's objectives, measure, calculate, build in a contingency and come back with a price.
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But because litigation is, in fact, unpredictable and usually takes longer to resolve than it does to remodel a kitchen, we should periodically revisit the price.
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This does leave one big issue. How does the client know that I won't cut my efforts to the bone in order to avoid losing money (or, for that matter, to avoid an early victory)? The first answer is that clients should hire lawyers they trust. If they believe their lawyer will take a fall to make a buck, they should get another lawyer. But clients really do need something more tangible than trust.
Quality insurance should come in the form of a success fee. If I win, I should be rewarded. That's not only fair, it places the incentive where it belongs. It doesn't suffer from the soft idea that effort, even unsuccessful effort, should get an A. Winning is what deserves an A. I gave Joe a bonus for finishing our kitchen three weeks ahead of schedule.

Read the entire article "Kill the Billable Hour"


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