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Are You Finally Ready for an Alternative to the Billable Hour?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on September 28, 2011 6:49 AM

Sick and tired of counting your billable hours?

The billable hour has long been a staple of the attorney lifestyle. But that doesn't mean it has to stay that way.

Most other professions don't necessarily bill by the hour. If you go to a dentist, he doesn't bill you for every hour he spends extracting that cavity. Instead, he bills you for the value of his services as a whole.

In that same vein, maybe it's time for your firm to start implementing some alternatives to the billable hour.

One simple alternative is a flat-free arrangement with clients. Flat-fee arrangements can provide transparency for both clients and attorneys.

For attorneys, technological advances have made it difficult to discern what is considered "billable" or not. Is responding to an email billable? Most attorneys would say it is.

But what about online chatting? Texting? With so many methods to keep in touch with clients, billing by the hour has become increasingly more difficult.

For clients, a flat-free arrangement can provide much-needed transparency and openness over the billing process. No attorney wants to have a billing dispute with a valued client. But sometimes a dispute is inevitable when billing by the hour. A client may wonder why they are getting billed hundreds of dollars for a phone conversation they originally thought was on the house.

Of course, the billable hour probably isn't going away anytime soon. Especially when flat-fee arrangements require extra legwork in the beginning stages of the case, as attorneys will have to estimate how much their services are really "worth."

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