Lawyers, Process Management and the Billable Hour’s Demise

There is a good piece today in about how law firms are looking more seriously at process management in order to reign in legal costs. It’s all tied into the backlash against the billable hour, a trend that has been growing since the start of the Great Recession. The author writes:

Project and process management — in essence the antithesis of the billable-hour model — is a concept being eyed by law firms as they try to ensure they can deliver the efficiency required to make good on their alternative fee arrangements.

I wrote about this in another blog that I was writing for a client (suggesting that lawyers only have to look at how contractors charge for their work in order to figure out how to do the same in the practice of law).

What this all means is that the days of running the clock are over for attorneys. Like contractors, lawyers need to figure out how to apply the “right” resources to get different parts of the job done. Tasking a first year associate with document review and charging the client $300 per hour will be a thing of the past within a few years. Once lawyers are working for a fixed fee, the right incentives will be there to become more efficient (or process oriented).

The career implications are obvious to me. If you haven’t already started investigating ways to price legal work on a project basis, the time has come; and if you have never thought about how to break your work into pieces so that some aspects of the work can be done by cheaper vendors, then start doing this and you will find very receptive clients.

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