The Empty Hourglass Program

I’ve been exchanging emails with Eliot M. Wagonheim, of Wagonheim Law in Hunt Valley, MD.

In one email he mentioned his “Empty Hourglass Program,” and I was intrigued, and had to ask him what it was all about.

He replied with the following story, which he has graciously allowed me to share with you:

I conceived of our Empty Hourglass Program (“EHP” for short) in 2010 after a disturbing phone call from a client. I remember where I was – on the deck of a Ft. Lauderdale hotel where I was attending a CLE program. My client called and we opened the conversation by spending a few minutes talking about something – the weather, the Ravens, the NCAA basketball tournament…whatever. Then he gave an awkward chuckle (you know the one) and said “listen, we better get down to business. I know you’re on the clock.”

Now, he knew I would never have billed him for small talk. At least I hoped he knew. But the point is that under our billing arrangement, I could have. We both knew that.

At the end of our discussion, he said something akin to “I’m sorry about that crack about billing. I know that’s just the way things are and there’s nothing you can do about it, but it still bugs me.” So there it was: a client I liked and respected. A client with whom I had a relationship I valued and wanted to expand, hated the way I did business. I remember thinking “why am I fighting against my own business model in order to avoid frustrating clients I like?  I own a law firm. Why can’t I do something about it?”

I mapped out what became EHP that night in my hotel room. When I came back, I called my client and we sat down to lunch to kick it around. He helped me finalize the program that is now approaching its third anniversary. We have a short video of client testimonials about the program on our website, if you’re interested. At the time I formed EHP, I had never heard of Ron Baker or VeraSage.

In fact, the reason I read your book is because I met someone at a business function who had heard of EHP and thought that I was on your track – even if I didn’t know it yet. We had just met when he told me that he was ordering me a book from Amazon and that I should expect it in a few days. Although it is not unusual for people to send me books, and I now prefer iBooks and Kindle, yours was the first such book I can remember reading cover-to-cover upon receipt. For me, the day I received your book was an HSD.

This story resonated with me because it parallels closely why I began to offer fixed prices back in the early 1990s. My customers had repeatedly told me they didn’t like being billed by the hour and the uncertainty in price that came with it. There had to be a better way.

Thanks, Eliot, for providing yet another HSD.




  1. Come on, folks. HSD???? I went through 30 definitions of HSD on Wikipedia and could not find one that applied.

  2. Peter, HSD is an “inside baseball (VeraSage)” acronym. It stands for high satisfaction day. Here is one of the first posts about it –

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