Published on:

In the teeth of the cost-cutting period (2009), one quarter of surveyed general counsel had only paid firms based on billable hours

Toward the end of 2009, American Lawyer and the Association of Corporate Counsel conducted a joint survey of approximately 587 general counsel regarding the use of alternative fee arrangements. Some of the findings are cited in Lit. Mgt. Mag., fall 2011 at 58.

One out of four of the respondents “reported having paid all of their firms by the billable hour.” Recall that 2009 saw the feverish discussions of cost control in the face of the economic collapse. Recall that replacements for the much-maligned billable hour had been talked about ad nauseum for years. Bear in mind that matter management systems were well established in hundreds of law departments as sources of data for fee arrangements. Consider that the respondents to the survey knew it was about AFA’s so they might have been more open to those arrangements than non-respondents. And, finally, take into account that even a single departure from hourly billing, over an unstated period of time backwards, would have reduced the one-quarter finding.

All that leaves me impressed that one-quarter completely relied on hourly bills. If this is evidence of a sea change, you have to wade in a long way to cover your ankles.