Houston lawyers (and others elsewhere) still are not getting it

An article in the Houston Chronicle today details the trials of “cub lawyers” in their quest to work fewer hours, attempting to have a better work-life balance.

The columnist, Mary Flood, does a great job describing the problem, but she does not address the cause which is the billable hour itself. Perhaps this was beyond the scope of her story.

I quite enjoyed the following paragraph:

“I like the idea,” said Lynne Liberato, a partner at Haynes and Boone. “Paying less for fewer hours worked sounds great in theory, but if they don’t do the work, who is going to do it?” Liberato noted that even if law firms try to change things, it’s clients who demand billable hours and judges who dictate the sometimes onerous schedules.

Two things jump out at me. First, Lynne asks “Who is going to do the work?” This is LOL funny! Who indeed! Lynne believes it is her right to demand the hours for new associates. What rubbish! Second, “it’s the clients who demand billable hours.” Could she be more wrong? No client has ever demanded hours. Clients want results, hours are effects.

It is time for all professionals, lawyers, accountants, technology providers to wake up. It is past time to realize the billable hour is what is killing your companies.

What say you?


  1. The concept of the ABH is so WRONG when you understand the concept of value pricing. It is so RIGHT to bring value to the client. Why should we continue to commoditize ourselves? Sam Allred kept preaching to bring of value to the client don’t be a “vendor”, be a consultant. I now understand. Know the value for the client and bring that value to the client. Don’t be a “vendor” (a commodity); be a “value”-added consultants. Lynne just doesn’t see the “value” in her own firm or her staff. Guess what? Neither do her clients!

  2. Hi Kent,

    Thank you for your comments, you are quite right. I only have one point to add.

    Sam Allred doesn’t understand Value Pricing, though he may talk a great game. His CPA firm still bills by the hour, and worse, still uses timesheets. I’ve debated this with him and his response to me is simply: “Value Pricing doesn’t work all the time.”

    That couldn’t be more wrong, since every other business has to price in advance. It’s a classic example of how intellectually lazy most consultants to the professions are.

    But you got the message, and that’s what counts.

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