Friday, January 04, 2008

Billable hours

Slate has an interesting piece on an attempted move by the law profession away from the billable hour. I have mixed feelings on the concept.

On one hand, you have the often abused 'billable hour' where companies may not be getting a full hour's work for their full hour's payment (lawyer works for 8.25 hours and bills for 9, or lawyer gets taken to a baseball game, talks shop off and on for 30 cumulative minutes, and charges for the full 3 hours).

On the other hand, lawyers provide a service, and there are many companies that would just as surely exploit or monopolize that service if not reigned in by the threat of billing by the hour.

The author predicts a three way split of the profession in the future, with big-time deal breaker contracts being negotiated through the billable-hour system; small fry contracts being run by consulting firms and software programs; and a smattering of alternative contracts with less of a focus on billable hours taking up the middle of the road.