In the last blog post I picked on college football coaches and their exorborant salaries.  But its probably not fair to pick on college coaches alone.

The Philadelphia Litigation Blog discusses how lawyers at large Manhattan firms are now charging $1,000 per hour or more.  Superstar litigator, David Boies, sums it up pretty well:

Frankly, it’s a little hard to think about anyone who doesn’t save lives being worth this much money . . .

All of this reminded me of a great story from John Ward the managing shareholder of our firm.  Sullivan & Ward has represented many of the rural electric cooperatives in Iowa for decades.  At some point many years ago a decision was made to raise hourly rates to $50.00 per hour.  When John discussed this rate increase with a client one of the board members proclaimed:

Ain’t no man alive worth $50.00 per hour!

And while I don’t advocate returning to the days of charging $50.00 per hour, I agree with the discussion on the Philadelphia Litigation Blog regarding flat fees in a case or deal.  In many instances billing in this manner promotes greater efficiency than billing by the hour.  In late 2006  I decided I would start charging on a flat fee basis for litigation in addition to my work for incorporating businesses, forming LLCs or monthly outside general counsel services.    I have not moved exclusively to flat fees.  I find some clients still prefer the billable hour but I am always open to alternative billing arrangements. 

I know others agree with moving away from the billable hour including lawyer and author Scott Turow who believes the billable hour must die.  For me I like flat fees and alternative billing arrangement for two reasons:

  1. The businesses I represent can better budget and allocate for legal fees.  Business clients seem to appreciate that.
  2. I have experienced greater satisfaction in my work.  Living by a clock is no fun in my opinion.