Let’s Kill the Billable Hour Once and For All

It has long been my belief that the billable hour system, bu which many attorneys charge their clients and earn their livings ( and as I do, too for some matters, by way of disclosure) creates an inherent tension between the attorney’s interests and those of the client. If the attorney is being paid by the hour, doesn’t he or she benefit from taking as much time as possible, or at least as much as the client will be willing to pay for, in completing a task? Of what possible benefit is this to the client? This is a primary reason that I have started to use alternative fee arrangements, such as partial contingency fees, full contingency fees, flat fees and the like, for more matters, with the goal ultimately of using such arrangements in all cases. Even some in biglaw are now seeing the light. In an article in the August 2007 issue of the ABA Journal, best selling author and Chicago litigator Scoot Turow fairly well lays bare the flaws in the billable hour system. Whether Turow’s large law firm colleagues follow his lead or not, however, I intend to continue to pursue a full transition to alternative fees. My clients deserve nothing less.


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