Law Practice Management

How to fix a 'churn that bill' mentality? Hourly billing is only part of problem, Axiom CEO says

Hourly billing is only part of the problem contributing to a “churn that bill, baby!” mentality at law firms, according to the co-founder of a company claiming to offer cheaper and more efficient legal services.

Mark Harris, chief executive of Axiom, says in a Forbes column that the problems run deeper. Law firms are run by partners who have worked for decades to reap the rewards that come from being atop the pyramid. Change could be self-destructive, Harris notes.

At the bottom of the pyramid are the associates, who are deployed “in a haphazard manner against ill-defined tasks within an incentive structure that motivates waste and anti-client behavior,” Harris writes. These associates “tend to operate in a professional environment that has simply ignored all of the investment in technology, tool creation, and efficient workflow that have made the rest of the economy more productive.”

Harris says the solution is for law firms to end hourly billing and pyramid incentives, rethink their business models and invest in technology. “The solution,” he writes, “is, finally, to fix the game, rather than waiting for the players to behave differently.”

Harris, an ABA Journal legal rebel, touts a “managed services” concept at Axiom that involves lawyers, project managers, technologists and consultants working as a team.

Updated at 11:30 a.m. to correct word error.

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