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When the meter is ticking, inside counsel don’t speak to their outside counsel as readily

At the Ninth Annual SuperConference, David Grumbine, Senior Counsel, Dispute Resolution Group, of Whirlpool Corporation spoke. “A world without billable hours is our mantra,” Grumbine announced, so he and his 30-person defense team pursue fixed fees whenever they can (See my post of March 1, 2008: fixed or flat fees with 36 references.).

Grumbine made a subtle point. “Hourly rates affect communications between a client and a law firm,” he said. When the lawyer at the firm bills in tenths of an hour, the ever-present charge may deter a cost-conscious in-house attorney, with consequences that are undesirable for both the firm and the legal department. Over the longer term, a law firm partner wants close and early communication with the client. Sure, fretful partners can lose sleep about abuse from too many calls if they have agreed to a fixed fee, but on the other hand a useful and timely call may save much effort.