Could you do away with the billable hour? Of course you could, like some firms have already done and many more will do. Could you outsource your low-end commodity work? Of course you could, reducing the costs for your clients at the same time as you focus your work on analyzing the business implications of their legal issues, giving them more valuable advice that will make their businesses better. Could you offer work at an annual fee, not just a flat fee but a flat fee that covers a full year's worth of work, as Jay Shepherd recently suggested in a post on Twitter? Of course you could, gaining both a happier client and an invaluable perspective on her business, motivation, personal and professional goals, successes and failures because she never has to look at the clock when she picks up the phone. Could you stop charging your clients for research and due diligence? Of course you could. Could you develop a long-term training program for your clients to teach them how to do work for which they have to pay you today? Of course you could.
You could do all of these things, and many others, to change your business model, survive the current economic crisis, and grow your practice as others fall by the wayside. To make your clients happier, reduce their legal costs, and provide them with advice that will help them run their businesses. Or you could do nothing, and let your competition eat your lunch. The choice is yours.