Firm Leverages Billable Hour Animosity to Lure Clients
Screen shot of Valorem site.
Question: How Many Lawyers Does it Take to Screw a Client?
Answer: With billable hours, only one.
The Q&A above is just one of the many punches that self-proclaimed BigLaw refugees at Valorem Law Group, a Chicago business litigation boutique, are throwing against the billing practices of their former firms. Go to the law group’s website and visitors are greeted by a prominent white headline that reads, “the billable hour is dead.” Photos of gravestones, and images of attorneys tossing clocks in the garbage and smashing them with sledgehammers drive the point home.
There is no doubt that the billable hour is a constant source of aggravation for many lawyers. It doesn’t seem to foster happy attorney-client relationships, either. And Valorem is taking full advantage, leveraging dissatisfaction with the billable hour as part of an aggressive marketing strategy.
When designing the firm’s website, partner Patrick Lamb says the group wanted to “create a look consistent of who we are: highly skilled, accomplished big-firm lawyers who are extremely irreverent and unhappy with all the things that go along with the billable hour.”
Lamb says Valorem looked to law firm Bartlit, Beck, Herman, Palenchar & Scott in abandoning the billable hour in favor of alternative fee arrangements. It should be noted that Barlit Beck’s non-hourly fee arrangement is listed at the bottom of a secondary Web page detailing information about the firm’s litigation practice—a far cry from the bold anti-dollar-times-hour stance on Valorem’s homepage.
“There are those who are appalled by what we do,” Lamb says. But, “none of the four founding partners here are shrinking violets. Anybody that knows me also knows that I’m pretty out there from a marketing standpoint.”
The hard-line strategy seems to be working. Lamb says the law group has had a profitable year, expanding to seven attorneys since its formation in January.
ABA Journal (August 2007): “The Billable Hour Must Die”