About four years ago, one of my very favorite bloggers, David Giacalone wrote this provocative post, Value Billing versus Value Bilking, arguing that in many instances, value billing represented just another way for lawyers to extract more money from clients when the billable hour didn’t yield as much. Back then, I didn’t completely agree with David; I assumed that like me, most lawyers offered alternatives to the billable hour to increase efficiency and give clients more for their money, not less.
Now, I wonder whether I may have been wrong. Because the recent weeks of economic crisis have brought all kinds of articles and blog posts on law firms rethinking legal fees and law firms competing on price, or at least, highlighting price advantages. What happened to those $1000/hr billing rates which last summer, didn’t make anyone blink, or those value billing proponents who advocated lawyers charging premium fees just because they could? You’d think that in troubled times, the services of good lawyers would carry more value, not less. Yet if the recent news is any indication, lawyers are charging less, rather than more.
Well, some lawyers anyway. Not me, and not many of my colleagues here in the world of the independent practitioner. Because for us, being a lawyer has always been about doing good work, delivering top value, providing clients the best possible service and always keeping clients’ budgets in mind when taking on a case. As I’ve written before, it’s not the pricing mechanisms that make legal fees unreasonable…it’s how we lawyers use them.