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Law Firms Are Doing Away with Billable Hour for Lobbyist Lawyers

Posted Dec 14, 2011 5:35 PM CDT
By Terry Carter

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Corrected: In Washington, D.C. the coin of the lobbying realm is most often who you know—not necessarily how much time, precisely, you spend talking with them. Couple that with the fact that Capitol Hill staffers who go into lobbying abhor logging billable minutes, and a new trend is on: Law firms are rethinking the billable hour in their battle with straight-up lobby shops for top talent, Politico reports.

The story highlights the Holland & Knight public policy and regulation group’s decision to unplug the billable-hour clock. The firm’s lobbying professionals will cease keeping any track of their time.

“I think if you look out 10 years, this will be a very large trend ... and we could either lead or follow,” said Rich Gold, who heads the firm’s lobby shop.

Besides recognizing the fact that a good lobbyist can achieve more in a five-minute phone call than someone else might with a heap of billable hours, the new way should help Holland & Knight recruit top aides from the Hill.

“This has the potential to be a real game breaker in law firm recruiting because it opens up a new vein of talented folks who have previously shunned law firms like a fruitcake at a Christmas buffet because of the billable hour,” said McCormick Group headhunter Ivan Adler.

Holland & Knight worked for 18 months on the changeover, including a private study of 20 law firm and lobby shops in the D.C. market. All but one law firm and three lobby shops in it tracked billable time.

Most lobbying clients pay monthly retainers.

Corrected on Dec. 15 to state that all but one law firm and three lobby shops in the D.C. market tracked billable time.


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