What would be the result if a law firm asked its lawyers to charge their time not at a single hourly rate (say, $400 per hour) but at three levels. At the lowest level, where the service was simple or inefficient or travel, perhaps the rate would be 20 percent less ($320 an hour). The typical rate, for work in the comfortable sweet spot of the lawyer, would be at the standard rate. For work over the weekend, rushed, or demanding special teamwork research or creativity, the rate would be 20 percent above ($480).
Set aside the logistical impediment of time and billing systems, the inevitable subjectivity on the part of the billers, and the complication of bill review that might result. Tiered billing would at least attempt to bring costs closer to client value. The data would also be illuminating. Does the department see the value of work the same way its law firm’s lawyers do? Why not try this with a primary firm for a quarter?