My perspective

The Billable Hour Must Die


Earlier this week I wrote a post titled Death Of The Billable Hour and I am encouraged by the support the article has received from many quarters (if not from Oldlaw partners or from several Oldlaw employed lawyers).

In that post I mentioned that serious calls for the death of the billable hour have been occurring regularly over the last decade. As evidence of this I came across an old ABA Journal dated August 2007.Here is the front cover.

It contains a 6-page article by Scott Turow calling for the billable hour’s death. It is well worth reading the article in full.

The article describes the billable hour as:

  • rewarding inefficiency;
  • making clients suspicious; and
  • it may be unethical.

It is, however the author's final paragraph that is well worth reprinting in full and reading aloud.

"If I had only one wish for our profession from the proverbial genie, I would want us to move toward something better than dollars times hours.

We have created a zero-sum game in which we are selling our lives, not just our time.

We are fostering an environment that doesn't provide the right incentives for young lawyers to live out the ideals of the profession.

And we are feeding misperceptions of our intentions as lawyers that disrupt our relationships with our clients.

Somehow, people as smart and dedicated as we are can do better."

Here, here. Mr Turow. We can and we MUST do better.

I do not know Mr Turow (except via the books he has written) and now, where he is a partner at Dentons, I do not know whether he still shares the same views as he did in 2007. I hope so. 

10 years on and still the calls are being made for the billable hour’s demise and while there has been some progress away from time-based billing since 2007, it is incredibly slow and very painful to watch.

Oldlaw still maintains the billable hour via the timesheet life support. 

Shameful Oldlaw, shameful.


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