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Attorney Fees

Clients May Help End Billing by the Hour

Posted Jan 2, 2008 1:47 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A push by clients may force some law firms to abandon the billable hour, according to an article in Slate.

Among the companies pushing for alternative billing arrangements are Cisco, Pitney Bowes and Caterpillar. They favor flat fees and discounts for volume legal work in an effort to control their bills and predict expenses.

In a speech last January, Cisco’s general counsel Mark Chandler called the billable-hours approach "the last vestige of the medieval guild system to survive into the 21st century."

The article predicts that the future may see more companies outsourcing or using technology to handle rote legal work. But companies may still pay by the hour—at top dollar—for specialized, bet-the-company type of legal work.

Legal novelist Scott Turow decried the billable hour in an August cover story for the ABA Journal.

“We are fostering an environment that doesn’t provide the right incentives for young lawyers to live out the ideals of the profession,” he wrote. “And we are feeding misperceptions of our intentions as lawyers that disrupt our relationships with our clients.”

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