Death to the Billable Hour

Updated: May 6

It is standard practice for an attorney to bill their clients by the hour, but is this the best method or are we just rewarding inefficiency?


Let’s face it, when charging by the hour your attorney has the incentive to work slowly. If they finish your matter in a fast and efficient manner, they stand to make less money than if it’s drawn out as long as possible. The logic is simple: the more time the attorney spends on the matter, the more bills you receive, and the more money the attorney makes.


Additionally, let’s think about the effect this has on the attorney-client relationship. I can tell you from my own experience that when I am being billed by the hour I tend to scrutinize the work a lot more than if I had been charged a flat rate. Right or wrong, I begin to ask myself, “Did it really take him that long to do the work? Should it have taken that long? Are they dragging their feet in order to charge me more?”, and all other manner of criticisms.


An attorney-client relationship must have trust as its bedrock, and when the client is critical of the billing method, the trust suffers.


Lastly, clients tend to hold back communication when they are charged by the hour. It’s not unheard for an attorney to charge a half-hour for reading a brief email or taking a short call, so I can’t blame a client when they think twice about reaching out to their lawyer. Thorough communication and a complete, accurate picture is key to a successful outcome, leaving “small details” out is often detrimental as a few words may determine the ultimate outcome.


I could go on-and-on about why the legal industry needs to get rid of the billable hour, but first, I am going to do my part and remove it all together from atCause Law Offices operating basis.


atCause Law Office now works exclusively on flat fees. You will know the price of your service upfront and will not pay a penny more no matter how much communication you have with us.


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