Kill the Billable Hour? A British Response

As much as the legal sector experiences a change in momentum, such a change seems to be occurring now.

Last week, The Am Law Daily picked up on a piece penned by Cravath, Swaine & Moore‘s Evan Chesler in the latest issue of Forbes magazine, entitled “Time to Kill the Billable Hour.” Cravath’s presiding partner, in presenting an impassioned case for abandoning the practice of charging of clients by the hour, lent his voice to a growing debate.

In the United Kingdom, lawyers and clients have never had the same all-consuming obsession with hourly billing as their American peers. Still, over the last 20 years hourly rates have become the dominant currency here as well, and the tide slowly is turning — some British companies and firms are much further along in making the change.

Last summer, our London-based sibling publication Legal Week broke the story that commercial TV network ITV asked its outside law firms to abandon the billable hour and instead adopt alternative billing arrangements. General counsel Andrew Garard, who joined the company in the fall of 2007 from the London office of Dewey & LeBoeuf, said he wanted ITV to become the first major U.K. company to abandon this form of billing, and he initiated a review of the company’s outside legal providers.

By last November, Garard had finalized a list of approved outside counsel, a panel of nine firms, including Dewey, DLA Piper, Lovells, and Slaughter and May, that had committed to alternative billing methods. “None of the firms will bill us with reference to a measure of time on any matters,” Garard told Legal Week.

For more see law.com.

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