I just came across this really cool blog. It is called "the [non]billable hour" and is run by a lawyer in Illinois named Matthew W. Homann. The purpose of his blog is:
In the [non]billable hour, author Matthew Homann
(a practicing attorney and mediator) shares hundreds of inventive and
original ways to bring meaningful and satisfying change to the practice
of law. The blog focuses on how innovative billing strategies,
creative marketing techniques, cutting-edge ideas from other industries
and professions, and proven customer service principles, can combine
to revolutionize the ways lawyers serve their clients — and enjoy
I am particularly fond of the last phrase "and enjoy their lives". One of his first posts is titled "I Hate Billing by the Hour!". I know exactly what he means. My day is ruled by the pink timesheets I have on my desk and constant calculations of my billable time for the day and how that contributes to my monthly and annual billable fees with reference to my budgets. I spend much of my life thinking in terms of units of billable time. I was working at home one evening on one of my other projects and I actually found myself reaching for a time sheet when I finished an email. Scary habits! Here is what Homann has to say about billing by the hour:
I hate billing by the hour. I’m also not very good at it — never
have been. I find it very difficult to keep track of my day in
six-minute increments. As a solo attorney, I have the flexibility to
change the way I bill my clients, and I am resolving to do just that.
Now I know that New Year’s Resolutions are often forgotten before
the snow melts, and how many times have we all promised ourselves to
improve our personal and professional lives? Well this year for me is
going to be different. With God (and the five or six people who will
read this) as my witness, I resolve to do the following this year to
make my law practice fun again:
I resolve to move all of my practice away from the billable hour — no exceptions. I do not want to keep another timesheet as long as I live.
I resolve to think more and work less. I will take one day off each week to reflect on improving my practice and to recharge my batteries.
I resolve to write more and speak more. I will seek out writing and speaking engangements instead of waiting for them to come to me.
I resolve to make my clients my best sales people.
I will offer my clients a completely different legal service experience
than they are accustomed to. I will ask them about what they want their
lawyer to be, and incorporate their ideas into my practice model. In
short, I will astound them.
From this day forward, I will be working with my clients and staff
to overhaul the way I practice law. In my blog, I will be sharing my
ideas and keeping a log of my progress. Join me as I make practicing
law fun again.
Wow! Imagine that, making the practice of law fun again. Again? Now that must be something worth working towards. It is the kind of proposition that makes me want to reconsider my intended exit from the practice of law.
Of course, unless you are working as a pro bono lawyer or working in a law clinic of some sort, there is a strong focus on fees because, after all, we sell our time as lawyers. Homann posted a couple items about creating value for clients and I think this must be more important that simply billing them for every little attendance. One of the difficulties I face from time to time is when I do some work for a client who is in a real bind in an effort to be of service and to help them out and then struggle to recover relatively small fees from them. Is this an expectation that services be rendered for free?
Mikao Usui, the man who reintroduced the practice of Reiki to the world, is credited with a guideline that there must always be an exchange of energy for services rendered. This often takes the form of payment as money is just another form of energy. If there is no exchange of energy then there is a likelihood that the recipient of those services will not perceive the value in those services and will not take them seriously. I believe that this is a principle that has universal application and particularly in an attorney’s practice.