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February 27, 2007

Freedom to Set Fees Creatively and Responsibly

There is a great post over at the Great American Lawyer talking about the "Billable Model" and how, in my interpretation, it has become the two ton elephant sitting on the chest of most large (and some smaller) law firms.  The model is suffocating and squeezing the life out of larger firms (meaning associate and client attrition rates) and creates negative tensions with those associates and clients who remain.

This is a great 'comment' posted on the Sui Generis blog that reiterates the above as it relates to associates:

"......the billable hour. What a mistake that was-- I'd like to find the guy who came up with the notion that lawyers should be paid like millworkers and show him what mischief he created. Since there are only so many hours in a day, and since rates can only go so high, we find ourselves working in exploitive pyramids, instead of as professionals interested in practicing a learned profession. "

One of the most profitable benefits of being a solo is freedom to create, effectuate change, try something new without having to first go through committee.  We all talk about Darwin's oft misquoted "survival of the fittest" when in fact it is surival of those who can adapt.  But it is best analogized to the Ice Age.  Many of the larger, more lumbering animals who had long gestation cycles didn't survive because they couldn't genetically "change" fast enough thereby precluding timely "adaptation."  However, the mouse (or its historical predecessor) because it was small, gestated so frequently with so many offspring, (some survived, some didn't) they were able to adapt and to weather the environmental changes. 

Now, I'm not comparing solos to mice.  I''m am saying the solo practitioner has the ability to 'pro' create rapidly precisely because they are solo; change isn't by committee.  This enables them to change their billing practices (some will be profitable, some will not) adapting with the times and ultimately surviving.

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