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(Boston Globe)   Boston law firm bans the billable hour, which will undoubtedly lead to lawyers becoming ethical, honest, morally upright paragons of virtue   (boston.com) divider line
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14904 clicks; posted to Main » on 08 Oct 2007 at 5:41 PM (11 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2007-10-08 05:43:30 PM  
Bunch of ball-washing bastards...
 
2007-10-08 05:43:37 PM  
So how are we supposed to rape bill clients now?
 
2007-10-08 05:44:22 PM  
[image from geocities.com too old to be available]

I move for a bad court thingy....
 
2007-10-08 05:44:24 PM  
Yeah righhhtttt.


/what a load of s%*@
 
2007-10-08 05:44:25 PM  
Considering they're paying first year associates over $150k/year now, I'd be interested in seeing how long this new "business model" lasts.
 
2007-10-08 05:44:32 PM  
"According to your billable hours, you're 104!"

.
 
2007-10-08 05:45:18 PM  
I'm sure one of Fark's resident ball-washers will be by shortly to explain why it's actually good for clients to be charged by how much time is spent on their job rather than on what job is done.
 
2007-10-08 05:45:33 PM  
actually it will probably just lead to that law firm getting sued out the ass by their clients.
 
2007-10-08 05:46:58 PM  
I honesty think lawyers are underpaid, considering how much they contribute to society.
 
2007-10-08 05:47:51 PM  
Work on contingency? No, money down!
 
2007-10-08 05:48:58 PM  
"There's a disincentive to be efficient since you get paid more if you take longer to finish a matter - even though the client wants it to be finished as fast and efficiently as possible."

FTA

I agree and disagree. If your attorney is an unethical twit, then yes. However, it is nearly impossible to accurately determine, before hand, what a legal situation is going to cost.

A trial? That mainly depends on how much motion practice the other side engages in. What is likely to happen here is that law firms will over estimate the average cost, to insure that they cover the odd cases that take lots of time, and the regular Joe's will end up paying more than they would have otherwise.

This sort of spreads the cost to everyone, instead of keeping the costs personal to the client.

Our firm has attacked the billable hour, but reducing the number of hours suggested for a year (1800 goal). That reduces the pressure of attorneys to bill every hour of every day.

It's not the billable hour, it's the firms that try to burn their attorneys to the ground.
 
2007-10-08 05:49:00 PM  
now if we can just get a loser pays court system...
 
2007-10-08 05:49:02 PM  
Submitter seems overly excited. Billable hours are not banned, just replaced with fixed rates for routine work with their larger clients.

You should push your lawyers to know the steps involved with whatever you are using them for, and set time estimates for each step to create a scope of work just like you would with any consulting. This avoids surprise costs and gives you a heads up if something is taking much longer than anticipated.
 
2007-10-08 05:49:30 PM  
ScottMpls

Can you please point me in the direction of one of those firms? Because I know some recent grads who would like a $100k/year increase.
 
2007-10-08 05:50:02 PM  
These guys are going to be torn to pieces by a howling mob of Massachusetts Bar Association members.
Either that or they will be burned as heretics.
 
2007-10-08 05:50:09 PM  
eh.

its a start

the tag is really deserved for the day when a hollywood writer says "THOU SHALT NEVER CREATE A LAW DRAMA IN BOSTON AGAIN"
 
2007-10-08 05:50:44 PM  
I honestly think that John Edwards will make the best president, if only because of his fine understanding of the laws of this nation. If he plays his cards right, the former lawyer will be the greatest president of the 21st century!!!
 
2007-10-08 05:51:31 PM  
A paralegal, an associate, and a partner of a prestigious Wall Street law firm are walking through Central Park on their way to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp. They rub it and a genie comes out in a puff of smoke.

The genie says, "I only grant three wishes, so I'll give each of you just one."

"Me first! Me first!" says the paralegal. "I want to be in the Bahamas, driving a speedboat, without a care in the world."

Poof. He's gone.

"Me next! Me next!" says the associate. "I want to be in Hawaii, relaxing on the beach with the love of my life and an endless supply of piña coladas."

Poof. She's gone.

The genie looks at the partner and asks, "And you?"

The partner says, "I want those two back at their desks after lunch."
 
2007-10-08 05:51:49 PM  
The pain in the ass is all the tracking you have to do when you work with billable hours. Too bad this is only a 5-lawyer firm doing this. Here I was hoping it was somebody big and influential that would get the ball rolling.

/Dreads the end of the month
 
2007-10-08 05:52:14 PM  
SchlingFo: I'm sure one of Fark's resident ball-washers will be by shortly to explain why it's actually good for clients to be charged by how much time is spent on their job rather than on what job is done.

Because the "job" is not just one sided. Opposing counsel can make something that should be very easy, very difficult. The billable hour is simply the easiest way to keep track of how much work an attorney does on a case.

There is a huge difference between a Motion for Summary Judgment in a one issue case dealing with a Statute of Limitations, or a multi-issue case requiring expert witnesses and tons of research.
 
2007-10-08 05:52:29 PM  
He's already on his way to greatness:

webphysics.davidson.eduView Full Size
 
2007-10-08 05:52:50 PM  
atate_esq: A trial? That mainly depends on how much motion practice the other side engages in. What is likely to happen here is that law firms will over estimate the average cost, to insure that they cover the odd cases that take lots of time, and the regular Joe's will end up paying more than they would have otherwise.

However, if firms all begin to move to a price-per-job basis instead of a price-per-hour basis, then neither side is going to be throwing superfluous motions out there if they know that they're not going to get paid for the extra work.
 
2007-10-08 05:53:05 PM  
ScottMpls - check out any of the Vault 200 firms. Most starting at either 160k/year or 145k/year. None under 110k/year.
 
2007-10-08 05:53:12 PM  
The USA was founded by lawyers!

Or do you still believe it was farmers and silversmiths that wrote the Constitution?
 
2007-10-08 05:54:26 PM  
ussvictoria.co.ukView Full Size


My lawn, get off it...
 
2007-10-08 05:54:41 PM  
Denny Crane

tvmedia.ign.comView Full Size
 
2007-10-08 05:56:27 PM  
I came for a dose of Denny Crane. I was not disappointed.
 
2007-10-08 05:56:35 PM  
Wow, now I know which law firm to call if I ever get in trouble legally.
 
2007-10-08 05:57:21 PM  
ScottMpls Quote 2007-10-08 05:44:25 PM
Considering they're paying first year associates over $150k/year now, I'd be interested in seeing how long this new "business model" lasts.


Their Revenue is less than 5 million dollars a year. There are 5 people in the law firm. You do the math.
 
2007-10-08 05:58:07 PM  
SchlingFo: However, if firms all begin to move to a price-per-job basis instead of a price-per-hour basis, then neither side is going to be throwing superfluous motions out there if they know that they're not going to get paid for the extra work.

I think that is true to a certain extent. Some motion practice is superflous; however, some of it is appropriate but limited by the cost. Clients don't want to pay for all of the those motions, while some might want to pay...so they feel like everything possible is being done (in a bet-the-company situation for instance).

When you move to a base cost, how many motions does that pay for? Are you going to have different "trial" categories? Are you going to bill based on the number of novel legal arguments? How about the number of witnesses called? Any expert witnesses?

I can see the alure of it, I really can. However, really breaking down such a billing scheme would be very difficult and some clients are going to get screwed, because they'll pay a rate and get no where near that kind of work.

With the billable hour, the client can challenge the attorney's work and the attorney has to be able to justify every 6 minutes of their time.
 
2007-10-08 06:00:08 PM  
SchlingFo: I'm sure one of Fark's resident ball-washers will be by shortly to explain why it's actually good for clients to be charged by how much time is spent on their job rather than on what job is done.

All fee arrangements have problems since they give the attorneys and clients conflicting interests. With billable hours, lawyers have an incentive to put in far more work than is needed. With a flat fee, lawyers have the opposite incentive: to do the least amount of acceptable work, as each hour spent decreases their profit margin.

Both give the lawyers a reason to screw over their clients, but at least hourly billing results in quality (if overpriced) work product whereas flat rate leads to shoddy (though cheap) work. Most large firms (not the 5 man shop from the article) cater to large corporate clients; these will, for the sake of getting predictably good results and CYA with the board of directors, accept the higher fees. Beyond that, the cost required for many complex transactions are notoriously difficult to estimate in advance.
 
2007-10-08 06:01:00 PM  
Wow, flat rates for law services? We are finally getting somewhere.
 
2007-10-08 06:01:13 PM  
Link (new window)

Great lawyer song.

/If I think about you when I'm all alone, I'm billing time.
 
2007-10-08 06:02:40 PM  
pvd021: Their Revenue is less than 5 million dollars a year. There are 5 people in the law firm. You do the math.

I DRTFA, but 5 lawyers in a firm rarely means more than 1 associate, if any. If there are 5 partners in that office, then yeah - you can do the profits per partner math pretty easily. What's not so easy is figuring out how much they pay associates. If you're interested in larger firms, the NALP collects and publishes compensation data on its website.
 
2007-10-08 06:04:07 PM  
Petulant Dwarf: Wow, flat rates for law services? We are finally getting somewhere.

Good luck with that crappy work the attorney let his law clerk or secretary turn out, so he could spend time on something else.

As quizybuck noted above, this fee arrangement is not going to protect people from scuzzy lawyers. Once again, the problem is not the billable hour, but the attorneys that abuse it.

I know my clients would rather pay for the work I do, than pay for the work I might estimate I might do. What if things shake out easier than expected?
 
2007-10-08 06:04:42 PM  
lawyers are like mucus, necessary scum.
 
2007-10-08 06:04:50 PM  
WTF are indies supposed to do for food there?? Per project rate is like indentured servitude...
 
2007-10-08 06:04:53 PM  
Unless you do a lot of a certain thing, it can be hard to do flat billing.

Need to address contingency fees for little or no work. Client comes in with 60K personal injury case, lawyer sends a letter or two, looks at some records, collects 1/3 or 20k. My thought, require the insurance company to certify their final offer to the injured person, then the attorney can charge 1/3 for whatever they can collect above that amount.
 
2007-10-08 06:05:11 PM  
pvd021: ScottMpls Quote 2007-10-08 05:44:25 PM
Considering they're paying first year associates over $150k/year now, I'd be interested in seeing how long this new "business model" lasts.

Their Revenue is less than 5 million dollars a year. There are 5 people in the law firm. You do the math.


"They're" refers to top firms and what they're offering 1st year associates who really aren't worth a farkin' dime to any larger firm until at least their 3rd year. The fact some store front firm has decided to go to a flat rate system isn't really "news", since smaller shops have done that for years. Now, if Kirkland, Skadden, Cravath, etc. do so, that's "news".

/former big firm associate/lawyer
//billed over 2400 hours
///make much more money now
////carefully reviews legal bills
 
2007-10-08 06:05:27 PM  
I wonder what flat rate they quote for "scorched earth?" Or "defense against scorched earth?"

Because that doesn't come cheap.

This model will not work except in essentially non-contentious circumstances where the fees are not driven by the actions of an aggressive adversary (or the risk of such). And this pretty much excludes all of commercial litigation, IP litigation, products liability litigation, antitrust litigation, domestic relations litigation, etc.

But it'll probably work just fine for real estate closings and simple wills.
 
2007-10-08 06:05:54 PM  
Thank the gods - I have attorney friends who treat me right.
 
2007-10-08 06:06:54 PM  
I have been working in technology management consulting for many years. I hate fixed-fee billing and avoid it if at all possible. It is much easier for all to say -- here is the outcome of the work we will do, here is the fee.

With lawyers, it is more difficult. In criminal cases, you can't guarantee results, you might lose. In complicated proceedings, it can be difficult to estimate costs upfront.

That said, I just hired a lawyer for a real estate transaction at a fixed fee. (Friend of a friend.)
 
2007-10-08 06:07:05 PM  
newsbusters.orgView Full Size

Its the right thing to do. Now let me ravish your body.
 
2007-10-08 06:07:53 PM  
*snort* - ha... heh-heh... *snork* - heh-heh-heh-HA!

HAHAHAHAHAHA-Heh!...

BWAAA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-Heh... *snork... *sniff...

Yer shiattin' me, right?
 
2007-10-08 06:08:25 PM  
The billable hour is one of the most hateful things known to man. I realize they may be a necessary evil, but I'd rather do manual farking labor for a living.
 
2007-10-08 06:08:27 PM  
Best is put an attorney on your payroll, Work them 60hrs a week doing contracts. When burned out rinse and repeat!!

Been doing it for years, works great! There are a bunch of attorneys out there looking for work!

Maybe I just gave away my secret!
 
2007-10-08 06:09:53 PM  
As someone who used to work in the IT department at a large law firm, not billing by the hour would actually be awesome. Stupid time reporting software. Lawyers were crazy about case numbers and starting the timer the minute they picked up the phone, too. Billing by the minute. There's a decent amount of overhead making sure it works properly, because if it doesn't, the first person you'll hear it from is a self-important lawyer.

I'm sure it'd be even better for the secretaries and time reporting people in billing, too.

/out of the law business
//and thankfully out of IT! (kinda)
 
2007-10-08 06:10:44 PM  
.ExJerseyGirl: With lawyers, it is more difficult. In criminal cases, you can't guarantee results, you might lose.

It's flatly unethical to take a criminal case on contingency. You can have fixed fees for pleading verses going to trial but you cannot make your fee contingent on a certain outcome
 
2007-10-08 06:11:46 PM  
atate_esq: A trial? That mainly depends on how much motion practice the other side engages in. What is likely to happen here is that law firms will over estimate the average cost, to insure that they cover the odd cases that take lots of time, and the regular Joe's will end up paying more than they would have otherwise.

I've got some experience with paying fixed rates and hourly. My divorce attorney charged hourly in the standard six minute increments. My criminal defense attorney charged flat-fees ($x for everything pre-trial, and $2x if we go to trial). The DA we were dealing with was a dick, and wouldn't deal, so we had to go to trial. Just as we are about to seat a jury, the DA realizes he had no case and deals. My lawyer had planned on a week long trial, and billed accordingly, but we were only in court for half a day.

He definitely made way more per hour then my divorce attorney, but I resent him less because it was an upfront fixed cost. My divorce attorney cost me $6/min with a $60 minimum each time I called. Divorce court is so farked up that one day we had to spend an entire day there since we were 'next in line'. An entire day at $6/min.
 
2007-10-08 06:12:04 PM  
Yawn.

/contingent fee lawyer
 
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