Reports to the Contrary, the Legal Profession Remains Firmly Committed to the Billable Hour: A Recent & Prominent Case in Point


Lawyers have long engaged in loose and hopeful speculation that law firms will stop basing their charges on the time it takes attorneys to do their work, and that corporate clients will soon be able to pay legal fees based on a pre-agreed value of attorneys’ services.

For instance, a full five years ago, the influential Georgetown Law Center / Peer Monitor’ 2017 Report on the State of the Legal Market announced, “The Death of Traditional Billable Hour Pricing” — and its replacement with “alternative fee arrangements” and “budget-based pricing”.

But the facts don’t bear this out. Witness a recent and prominent case in point reported in last Monday’s legal insider publication Above the Law:

Biglaw Firm Breaks The Secrecy Over Partnership Decisions Revealing Just How Many Billable Hours It Takes … According to an internal memo … the Biglaw firm of Hogan Lovells has come clean about exactly how many hours it takes if you want the brass ring of partnership. Drumroll, please. It’s 2,400 [1700 of those must be chargeable to a client].”

 Pay attention to what the legal profession does, not to what it says: it fiercely holds onto incentives that maximize hours and inputs — and that ignore efficiencies and outcomes.  

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