One of the true pitfalls of the hourly billing system is that it creates disincentives to do those things that may be the most important for your firm. Focusing on billing a certain number of hours per year, or if you’re a partner, making sure the associate attorneys bill some minimum number of hours per year, distracts you from the things that may be more critical from your firm’s success. These certainly include matters of strategic planning, execution of case strategy and management of team members. Somehow, lawyers who are managing to get their 50 hours of billable time in per week forget there are much bigger issues in play. When success is defined by hours, not outcomes, it doesn’t take too long before people forget where the real end zone is for their clients.
I know when my firm is too busy because, even though we aren’t focused on billable hours, the most important items can still get lost in the shuffle. These last two weeks have been good for our firm because the workload is down. Most firms would say this is a bad thing. I say that these periods are critical for law firm growth and market positioning. When else would you ever find the time to attend to such important matters as client relationships, process redesign, strategic brainstorming with staff and new technology deployment.