Isn't the real problem one of value, trust and service? When clients say they are unhappy with the billable hour method, aren't they saying they feel like they're paying too much for their legal services? That the perceived value of those services does not equal the cost they've been asked to pay? Legal services have to be paid for, and by-the-hour is a reasonable way to do it until you think your lawyer spends unnecessary time on your matter, or charges too much for her time, or isn't telling you the truth when she says it will take 20 hours to resolve your problem. And if that's the case, then the billable hour isn't to blame.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
As the battle to eradicate the billable hour wages on, I can't help but think that, in spite of all of its warts, it is still a pretty efficient way to compensate lawyers for their work. Yes, it can reward inefficiency. Yes, it emphasizes quantity of work, not quality of work. But isn't frustration with the billable hour a symptom rather than the problem? Does that particular billing method produce a negative impact on the delivery of legal services? Are clients getting bad work because of the billable hour? I cannot imagine a situation in which that were true (but welcome correction).