Business Demands Fixed Fees… And other revelations like The World is Round, and Eating Maccas is bad for you!

Global Player

surprise surprise some recent data has come to light that clients don't like time based pricing! Wow, gosh I didn't know that because I am constantly told by lawyers that "my" clients like being billed by time.

The Australian Legal Affairs Section of 20th August is primarily devoted to the problems and hopeful demise of the billable hour. "Business demands fixed fees"..."Alternative billing the way to go"..."Lavan move signals end for timesheets".."time is up for outdated system of charging by the hour" read the headlines.

and next Friday we are promised even more this time on "the billing abuses some law firms inflict on their corporate clients".

It is a blight on our profession-most of whom do the right thing- that some of these abuses will be publicly aired and reported but a credit to the legal commentators and reporters in The Australian and other publications,clients and presumerably law firm "insiders" that are prepared to lift the lid on such abuses.

Seriously notwithstanding this is old news, the fact that clients are now themselves not just talking about the problems with the billable hour but are now doing something about it because most law firms refuse to address it (with several exceptions including 2 Perth based law firms Lavan Legal and Bowen Buchbinder Vilensky, and Harwood Andrews Lawyers each of which have commenced down the track towards non time based billing to join firms like Marque Lawyers and Optim Legal who have been practising this way for years) means no longer can law firms afford to ignore this in the forelorn hope it is just a passing trend and will shortly go away. It wont. The winds of change are gathering momentum being fanned by client, staff, regulator, commentator, governmental, judicial and lawyer dissatisfaction and contempt.

Sure time based billing has many years left in it yet-such an efficient system of billing will not go quietly or easily-and no one is quite sure what is going to replace it. I personally think many forms of pricing will replace time based billing because law firms and their clients need options and the hourly rate has shown forever that a "one size fits all approach" will no longer cut it in the  world of business nor the world of justice.

Expect The Empire to attempt to strike back and invent yet still more ingenious ways to capture and bill time time. It will win the odd skirmish but eventually the war will be lost. Who knows the evolution might even turn into a revolution as our profession struggles to recapture its once proud boast of the trusted advisor- the real reason many of us joined the profession in the first place.

At the very least we are inching our way towards a tipping point.