Writer Zeughauser convinces the reader that idea of billable hours is on the decline. Clients begin to balk at the hourly rate as computer technology enables firms to document lawyer research time.
The greatest obstacle remaining before the billable hour is buried is the acceptance of alternative methods of charging for legal services. To a generation of lawyers firmly inculcated in the tradition of the billable hour, any other method of charging for legal services seems heretical.
The market is demanding alternatives to the billable hour that will revolutionize law firm efficiency. The risk of cost overruns resulting from the likes of associate education, partner re-tooling and excess, inefficient and inconsistent staffing should be borne by the law firm, not the client. Clients are also looking for firms to share the risk of losing, whether it be the outcome of a motion, an entire trial or the failure to close a deal. In return, clients are willing to share the benefits of winning.
The hourly rate may never disappear completely, but the writing on the wall is clear: It is descending to third or fouth place as the best method for determining the value of legal services and for charging for them in a hightly competitive marketplace. 2 pages