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Different billing rates for the same lawyer, according to the task’s usefulness to the client

Law departments ought to demolish rigid billing rates, according to which Partner X charges $410 per hour regardless of what that partner does during the hour. The fifteen minute conversation with a senior partner that cuts through complexity, integrates years of experience with many clients, and leavens it all with judgment and brains may be a bargain at $2,000 an hour.

The six hours that same partner charges during which she reviewed drafts of associates, figured out who was available to do research on three points of law, re-read the regulations, and scheduled the next status call may be too pricey at $200 an hour.

Logistically a nightmare and beset with subjectivity, differential rate billing still comes closer to matching the value of a lawyer’s work to the fee charged. I do not like hourly billing for many reasons, but if a firm could devise a method that clients would accept for a billing system that matches fees charged to worth delivered, that would be the marketing coup of the decade. Even if lawyers assigned their time to tall, grande and venti rates it might impress clients and start bucks rolling in..

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2 responses to “Different billing rates for the same lawyer, according to the task’s usefulness to the client”

  1. John Lassey says:

    Amen, Brother! Perhaps assignment of different rates based upon the Uniform Task-Based Litigation Support Code Set. Not perfect, but a step in the right direction. Another (lesser) approach might be to negotiate different rate schedules for different levels of difficulty for the matter as a whole. I.e., charge lower rates for matters for which the pool of competent counsel available is larger (e.g., “nail and board” or intersection collision cases) and higher rates for matters for which the pool of talent is smaller and/or the stakes higher (e.g., products liability or “bet the ranch” anti-trust litigation).

  2. f//k/a says:

    the value-billing babysitter

    “Please let me know if this Differential Billing idea is acceptable to you, before our next babysitting night.” XXO