Alternatives to the term “alternative billing”

Jay Shepherd, who blogs at The Client Revolution, attacks the term “alternative billing.” His comments are at least clever, if not correct. A shortened version follows:

“It’s a terrible term; one that does injustice to the concept. As I’ve said before, it has a seamy connotation to it, like “alternative lifestyle.” It seems vaguely Berkeley or Brookline or (gasp) Vermont, which makes tradition-bound lawyers very uncomfortable. We need an alternative for “alternative.”

And I don’t like the “billing” part any better. First, it makes it seem like the issue is about invoice styles, which makes it more boring than the Tax Code or, say, professional soccer. (“Woo! Another one-nought blowout!”) Second, it places the focus on the law firm and its administration, rather than on the client and the value it is getting.”

Shepherd continues. “The main idea, of course, is that lawyers should price their services based on their value to the client. But my quibble is that the word “value” has Walmart-y connotations. People often connect “value” with “discounted,” and that’s missing the point entirely.

I propose a different approach: Open-price lawyering.

What we’re talking about here is legal services where the price is known to the customer ahead of time, so that the customer can make an informed decision about the worth of those services to him or her before actually agreeing to buy them. In other words, the price is out in the open. There is a fair exchange between lawyer and client with the client having as much knowledge about the price as the lawyer.”

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