#VBP

A different take on the end of the Billable Hour

I have read a lot recently about how AI and ChatGPT in particular is going to kill the billable hour. That may well end up happening. What I do suspect though is that it is unlikely to happen soon. And if the billable hour is to be killed off, technology – such as AI and ChatGPT – may well play a part, but it will be the cultural/behavioural change that’s needed that will be the final nail in this coffin.

Don’t believe me?

Here is a quote (of kinds) by Aarash Darroodi, Fender’s General Counsel, at the recent Legal Marketing Association’s annual gathering in Hollywood, Florida:

…the mere fact that he’s being billed by the hour isn’t a problem — but that the billable hour’s implementation can be.

In other words, Darroodi doesn’t mind that his law firm(s) charge him (his company) by the hour, but he does mind if you take him for a fool.

And until this mindset changes, you’re not going to see the death of the billable hour anytime soon.

Darroodi’s comments on the RFP process – should clients do an “open day” before tendering?

While Darroodi’s comments on the billable hour were interesting, his comments on the approach law firms should take to the RFP process were even more insightful. To quote from the article:

[Darroodi] described receiving template-based RFP responses from law firms — an approach he called “fundamentally a mistake.”

Instead, he would like to see a law firm respond to an RFP with an offer to come look at the company’s operations in-depth, gaining a better picture of his organization before a proposal is prepared.

“First of all, it shows initiative on your part. It shows the fact that you care,” he said. “And plus, it shows us that you’re going to submit something that’s directly related to our existing organization.”

Now I’m more than sure that not all GCs will take this approach. And before everyone in Australia says this would likely breach procurement protocols (after the RFP has been issued), I know.

But, wouldn’t it be interesting – and just a little more relevant, if clients did an “open day” before they issued the RFP? Particularly in cases where the tender is by invitation only?

In my view it would certainly make sense and would undoubtably result in more directly relevant and related (and probably eminently more readable) tender responses.

If you want to read anymore on either of the issue above, go read ‘Why Curiosity Is Key For Business Development Observations from the general counsel panel at this year’s LMA meeting‘ by Jeremy Barker on the Above The Law website.

Not only is it highly insightful – so “thanks for posting it Jeremy”, but it contains this nugget – again from Darroodi – on his views about client events (and if you are anEvents Manager in a law firm, stop reading now 🤣):

“I don’t want to spend time with my lawyers,” Darroodi said to laughter, comparing the idea to hanging out with his dentist. 

Ouch!

In the meantime, if you need help with your pricing or RFP responses, feel free to reach out to me.

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Is It Fair To Charge Different Clients Different Rates?

Leaving aside the whole issue of whether or nor the billable hour is the best way to charge clients, do you think it is fair to charge different client different rates for the same work?

This article by Jordan Rothman on abovethelaw.com would suggest the answer to that question is – ‘yes’.

And I actually don’t disagree with Jordan’s outcome, but do disagree with his thinking of why.

After all, at least here in Australia, we very rarely have the same panel rate for all legal panels we are appointed to so; despite, or rather, the fact that we will be doing similar work under the various panel appointments.

QED – IMO – it’s fair to charge different clients different rates for the same work we do (and, HINT, it all comes out in the wash when you look at the Average Realised Rate – but I will leave that for another post).

But, and here is the critical difference I have with Jordan’s post, different clients will equate a different value to the work being done by you – and so it is more than fair to charge one client more or less than another client perceived on the value of the service they are getting.

For example, and I accept this is somewhat crude, somebody who has never been divorced before and whom your firm ‘looks after’ in a very emotional period of their life is way more likely to value the service your firm provides than someone going through their fifth divorce – so charge them more!

If you want to have a chat about how you can maximise your value opportunities, feel free to reach out.

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