Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Demise of the Billable Hour?

For more than 30 years my professional life has been marked not in J. Alfred Prufrock's coffee spoons, but the more plentiful tenths of an hour I have dutifully recorded as billable hours. For almost as long, I have been predicting that a system founded on a basic disalignment between the client and lawyer's interests was doomed. Like many of my predictions, I have been spectacularly wrong.

Although there are occasional bursts of attention to the topic in professional journals, that has not translated to change. However, when it begins to get written about in the more general press, even if it is the business press, maybe the tide is beginning to turn. If so, the recent article, Battle of the bills from the Austin Business Journal, might just mark a turning point. I can hope, but I am not holding my breath.

For the record, I certainly don't think that the only alternative is to turn to traditional contingency fee lawyers (usually but not always those in the personal injury field) as at least one person quoted in the article has done; there are those of us on the defense side who are more than willing to explore options that would more closely align the interests. Hopefully there will be more opportunities to have that exploration in the coming days, months and years.

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