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

Defender Of Billable Hour Emerges

Posted in Commentary, Hourly Rates and Alternatives

This headline caught my attention: "Billable Hour Hullabaloo is ‘Overblown, Drinker Partner Says."  Courtesy of the ABA Journal, The headline is true to the article. 

“The billable hour is an overblown issue,” said Drinker Biddle & Reath managing partner Ed Getz, in an interview with the ABA Journal.

Getz goes on to say that clients are focusing their attention on capping total fees and budgets, but are not so interested in abandoning the tried and true billable hour. 

This defense seems to be "because it is, it will be."  Comfort with the status quo is a given.  Were it not true, there would not be a status quo. 

In various posts on Legal On Ramp, Fred Bartlit has made the point that the last people to change are the people who do best under the old system.  Everyday, BigLaw proves the truth of this conclusion.  It is hard to see that a client concerned with budget certainty and fee caps is interested in something other than buying six minute segments of time.  By refusing to see the client’s real concern, law firms are missing an incredible opportunity to rebuild themselves and seize market share.

On a personal level, I loved this quote from a partner at my former firm:

Arthur Hahn, the national chair of Katten Muchin Rosenman’s financial services practice, said his firm will continue to increase associate training and invest in technology to increase value to clients. But, the democratic partnership structure at the core of the legal profession will survive.

Said Hahn, “The practice of law is a profession, not simply a bottom-line business."

When I left Katten in 2000, things were different.  It actually took pride in being a bottom-line business.