The Death of the Billable Hour
A colleague of mine, D. Andrew Byrne recently wrote an interesting article about the billable hour called "The Birth and Death of the Billable Hour – One Approach for Dealing with the New Reality" [PDF] and why its death may be near. When he first told me about the article, I could hardly wait to read it and now after reading it, I have to share it.
The article takes an interesting look at the origin of the billable hour and how one doctor’s idea of how to improve the quality of medicine is changing the way he practices. By creating a checklist, an idea he borrowed from pilots, Dr. Atul Gawande says that he’s dramatically improved the results obtained during surgery.
For example, by doing something as simple as introducing oneself before surgery, Dr. Gawande found that doctors made 35% less mistakes because doctors were more willing to speak up if a problem arose. While the task of creating a checklist may have seemed tedious, the results were undeniable – the checklist worked.
Applying this idea to the legal profession, my colleague makes a strong point that we need to spend more time upfront analyzing our cases before doing anything else which will allow us to better serve our clients. I personally have witnessed this idea in action and think it’s how we should all practice.
In fact, a client recently told my colleague that one of the reasons he recommended the firm was because of the way his case was handled from the beginning – a full analysis of the case and all related legal issues was thoughtfully prepared in advance of taking on his representation. This helped the client and put us in a tactical advantage throughout the litigation. By taking the time to analyze the case in the beginning and figuring out how to best serve the client’s interests and needs, we were able to achieve a great result and land another client! Now that’s a win/win.