Frequent obstacle to alternative fees? Software and management can’t handle it?

This speculation comes from the Met. Corp. Counsel, Vol. 18, Jan. 2010 at 18. “Often legal departments remain with the billable hour because their billing systems and supervisory arrangements are not positioned to deal with the perceived complexities of alternative fee arrangements.”

I don’t buy that. A matter management system or an electronic invoice system (e-billing) ought to serve the department, not block its progress. Any fee arrangement results in a bill, somewhere and in some detail, so the department can track the information in its extant system. I am simplifying, to be sure, but let’s not have the software tail wag the cost-saving dog.

If “supervisory arrangements” is code for “we can’t figure them out and if we can we can’t oversee the bills that result,” then shame on lazy legal department managers! If it means that internal disagreement about means and ends (do alternative fees work), then the general counsel needs to set the march and get on with it.

If hourly billing clings to legal departments, it ought not to be because of either software’s inability to handle the billing information or managers’ unwillingness to accommodate an improved basis for billing.

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