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Death of the Billable Hour Rumors Are Coming True

According to reports, the billable hour may go the way of the dinosaur.

Still adjusting to market downturns and evolving technologies, law firms need to make changes in their practices that also change the way they bill for services. If they don't adapt, reports say, they will not survive.

The 2017 Report on the State of the Legal Market says that the death of the billable hour has been "one of the most potentially significant, though rarely acknowledged, changes of the past decade."

"Although firms still technically bill a majority of their work on a billable hour basis, budget caps imposed by clients mean that as much as 80 percent to 90 percent of law firm work is now done effectively outside of the traditional billable hour model," according to Thomson Reuters, which prepared the report with The Center for the Study of the Legal Profession at the Georgetown University Law Center.

Workplace Tips for Setting Up Small Law Firms

Tips are like opinions: everybody has one.

That's not a great spin of the original phrase, but at least it's printable. What we're really talking about here is spinning some new ideas on setting up a small law firm. Because, seriously, aren't we a little tired of the same old song?

Here are some twists on the typical tips:

America has its first exclusively esports-focused law firm now. What's esports, you ask? "Electronic sports," or professional, competitive video gaming. And if competitive video gaming sounds strange, well, it may be. But esports is also a major industry, with organized tournaments and millions of fans across the globe -- and the potential to generate billions in revenue in the near future, according to some estimates.

Esports players, teams, and businesses now have a firm dedicated especially to them, following the founding of the Electronic Sports & Gaming Law by Seattle-based attorney Bryce Blum last week.

Tips for Changing Practice Areas

If Robert Frost were a career counselor, he would tell you to take the road less traveled by.

It could turn out well, too, depending on your perspective. After all, a poet can sometimes be a prophet.

But if you are considering a change in practice areas, then Robert Half Legal might give you different advice. Here are some directions if you are deciding which way to go:

How to Build a Referral Network for Your Solo Practice

If you look at the typical mousetrap, the technology hasn't changed that much in the past 100 years: mouse gets cheese; mouse gets murdered.

There are some "humane" versions, the kinds that don't snap the critters' necks when they reach for the bait. Instead, the mice die slowly as they writhe hopelessly on a poison sticky pad or something.

So why does everybody say, "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door?" Or, "Build it and they will come?"

Well, those aren't supposed to be questions. They are supposed to be truisms. The point remains: is there really a better way to build a better business network?

Considered these points from the business network of all networks: LinkedIn -- with some twists for the lawyer in all of us:

Donald Trump will be inaugurated in just over two weeks and will begin to implement his promised policies. That includes potentially significant changes to the tax code. We know, every presidential candidate in your lifetime has pledged to reform the tax code, but those promises rarely bear fruit. But Trump, backed by a Republican-controlled House and Senate, might actually be able to get his tax plan passed.

Here's what could change and what it could mean for lawyers like you.

Takeaway Tips From a Successful Client Meeting

If you're reading this piece about a first client meeting, you probably are a new lawyer or soon-to-be one. After all, an experienced lawyer would not likely read this because it would not be his or her first rodeo. But in the off-chance that you're a seasoned attorney looking for a few pointers or just killing time, let me at least entertain you.

This is a story about a memorable first client meeting, about twenty years ago. It's a good one, and there are probably some pointers here and there.

Could your next contract attorney work for you from across the globe? Possibly. The growth of legal process outsourcing means that more and more lawyers are contracting with foreign attorneys and even nonlawyers to perform legal work. The practice has even gotten a nod from several local bar associations, which note that attorneys may outsource work to foreign practitioners, so long as they abide by the same ethical requirements applicable to the domestic use of nonlawyer services.

Though legal outsourcing has its skeptics, the practice appears to be growing quickly -- so much so that the LPO market could be worth over $27 billion by 2024, according to one recent report. But 2024 is still a ways away. Here are some outsourcing trends you can expect in the immediate future.

Should You Sell Clients' Uncollected Debt?

Times are tough when you have to borrow money to pay your bills.

Well, it's about that time for more than a few law firms. And it's not just the solo practitioners working on shoe-strings.

According to reports, even some BigLaw firms are reaching for money at the end-of-the-year rope. Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, New York City's oldest law firm with more than 450 lawyers around the world, sold off some of its receivables to make ends meet last year.

Cadwalader saw gross revenue drop 3.7 percent to $463.5 million in 2015. Managing partner Patrick Quinn attributed the decline to lagging collections. A former partner anonymously told the American Lawyer that the firm sold off some of its receivables at the end of that year.

More BigLaw Firms Are Suing for Clients' Unpaid Bills

The old wisdom against suing your client is giving way to a new normal.

According to recent reports, more BigLaw firms are breaking the old mold and suing their clients for unpaid fees. They say clients expect more of them, and so lawyers should expect more from their clients. This trend is happening at a time when law firm revenues are down and new lawyer expectations are up.

In other words, it is about money after all.