Australian Chief Justice: Billable Hours Past Their Use-By Date?

The Hon Wayne Martin, Chief Justice of Western Australia, gave a speech on Monday, 17 May 2010 to officially launch Law Week 2010.

The address, titled “Billable hours—past their use-by date?, reviewed the criticisms of time costing and suggested new approaches to charging for legal services.

It was presented by the Perth Press Club at Frasers Restaurant in Kings Park. You can watch a 50-second clip from a news report here.

I had the good fortune of having a private meeting with the Chief Justice on my last trip to Australia. The meeting was arranged by David Garnsworthy, a cost consultant in Perth, and my colleague John Chisholm.

We had an incredibly candid discussion with the Justice, and he asked many penetrating questions regarding alternatives to the billable hour. You can tell he has given this issue much thought.

After our meeting, I send him two chapters from my forthcoming book, Implementing Value Pricing: A Radical Business Model for Professional Firms.

I was humbled to see he cited me in his speech, and used some of the material I had sent him on the deleterious effects of hourly billing.

He also makes many valid points regarding the perverse effects of the billable hour. If you are a lawyer in Australia, this speech is a must read. If you are a lawyer in the USA, or anywhere else, the speech is worth reading to gain a perspective of the billable hour from a Justice’s point of view.

Is there any doubt that the pressure points on the billable hour are far greater than merely from law firm customers?

There is a Perfect Storm brewing against this antiquated model from all sides.

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