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In Search of Perfect Client Service Why lawyers don't seem to get it

Time Sheets and Buggy Whips

Posted in Hourly Rates and Alternatives

Great post by Ron Baker on the Verasage blog.  Titled "Why we don’t need consultants!", Ron shows his rapier wit in responding to an article published in Accounting Today.   The article posits this point of view: 

While you might argue that it’s the expertise of your staff and the product that you sell, the actuality is that what the client pays for is the time your staff spends on their behalf. Value billing is a great concept, but even after all these years of trying to move clients over to this method of billing, many clients still want to see how much effort, in the form of time, is being spent on their account.

Regardless of the rates and service levels that your staff provides to your clients, one great truism prevails—time is a non-renewable resource. Once it’s spent or wasted, there’s no getting it back.

That makes time a precious commodity and resource, one well worth using wisely. The time component of time and billing is designed to do that. By keeping track of the time spent on practice matters, you can make sure that not only will you bill for every precious minute and second, but you will also (hopefully) be able to see where time is wasted or spent poorly.

Baker’s response ranges from pithy ( I wonder if Mr. Needleman asked Porsche how long it took to make his car?) to contemtuous (But what’s worse, is this totally unsubstantiated, spurious, economically illiterate, and just plain stupid contention), with several stops in between.  As always, Ron Baker makes the case for value billing like no one else can or does.

With the caveat that you will do yourself a disservice if you don’t read the entirety of the post, here is a sample nugget:

Customers don’t buy time, Ted. If they did, I’m sure they’d buy it from someone cheaper than a CPA. And yes, time is a non-renewable resource. So what? It is for Bill Gates and Microsoft, too, but you don’t see them doing timesheets. You don’t see Pixar doing timesheets. Why not? Because they don’t think they sell time.

Review all the time and billing programs you want. They are the buggy whip of the knowledge economy, and I personally like the idea of you investing your intellectual capital studying dinosaurs, like a paleontologist. We need musuems. But don’t think majorities determine truth, they don’t. At one point, we thought the earth was flat. And today, a majority of CPAs and time and billing software developers think CPAs sell time. They are wrong, and we’ve proven it.

[sound of applause]