Alternative Billing, Round 2, in Law Practice Today

The new issue of the ABA’s webzine, Law Practice Today, revisits the subject of alternative billing as a follow-up to last month’s issue. Once again (please forgive my bias as an editor), this issue presents a strong collection of articles on the real world practicalities of today’s practice of law. The lead article is an interview of one of our leaders in innovation in pricing legal services for corporations, Jeff Carr, with whom I have had the great pleasure of co-presenting on the role technology can play in providing more efficient and more acceptably-priced legal services.
Just a few quotes from Jeff will give a flavor:
On forming his own firm: “I thought I was fed up with being a lawyer. What I learned was I didn’t hate the practice of law, I hated the business of law as it was being practiced at law firms. What brought me back to in-house practice after this little five-year experiment was the fact that at my core I’m a lawyer. I worry about our profession and I worry about the failing of lawyers in law firms to understand that they are in a business and to understand that it is a customer service business, and understand what customer service means.”
On the great attorney / client “disconnect”: “If you think of the law firm model, the economic model is based upon total revenue brought in the door. And that’s a function of hourly rate times the number of hours that you actually bill for and can collect for. That has absolutely no relationship, whatsoever, to the value that the corporate client places on the services.”
On what has been called the “latent market for legal services”: “I think quite frankly legal services have gotten too expensive in this country. Look at the rise of things like Nolo Press and Willmaker, software packages, that essentially permit people to do a lot of what would have been done by a lawyer on their own. Let’s face it, most legal work, about eighty percent of it, in any context, whether it’s your personal stuff, or whether it’s in a corporate world, is commodity type of practice. It’s really that only twenty percent are high value, high risk, bet the company, go to jail, lose your house matters. Those are the things that you really need the specialized service for. I think, in general, legal services have been priced out of the market for the general consumer. ”
Lots of thought-raising and, perhaps, action-provoking ideas in this interview. If you are familiar with Jeff’s speaking and writing, that will come as no surprise, but, if you aren’t familiar with Jeff’s approach, this interview might hit you like a freight train.
You will also find an article by Ward Bower on one of the most important issues new partners simply do not have an appreciation for, and an issue that may one day kill some law firms – unfunded death and retirement plans. Stephen Gallagher and Leonard Sienko discuss new approaches to strategic planning. I chip in with a list of Internet resources that take new perspectives on the alternative billing issue. And much more.
Check it out.