A possible upside for the recent economic downturn is that numerous previously accepted business models are increasingly being revealed as needing substantial reinvention or also total elimination.
The billable hour/leverage attorney model for legal services is one of these brilliant increasingly maligned business designs, and is now appearing to be in danger of finding yourself in the dustbin regarding history. Specifically, even those that benefit handsomely from the particular billable hour, such because the Cravath firm’s many $800 hourly lawyers, now realize might irrationality of charging litigant for time spent as opposed to value provided. This alone should signal that change is at the air.
Notwithstanding the growing conversation in regards to the need for alternative consumer service models, I fear that most IP law firms will either make an effort to ignore the desire regarding change or will reply by offering only incremental modifications with their existing methods of providing legal services with their clients. As someone with considerable experience working with IP lawyers, I believe, unfortunately, the conservative nature of all IP attorneys means that IP firms will more than likely lag behind in consumer service innovations. Thus, I am of the opinion that numerous prestigious and historically very profitable IP law firms will later on cease to exist.
I reach this conclusion because of various salient experiences. In one of these brilliant, several years ago, I approached a managing partner of your well-known IP law company with suggestions of how to decrease how many attorney hours expended about client matters. At the period, the firm was start to experience considerable push again from clients about the expense of routine legal services. I noted for the managing partner that he could lower the fee non-substantive e. g., management client IP matters, by assigning such tasks to lessen billing paralegals. His a reaction to this idea: “If paralegals did the task, what would the very first and 2nd year acquaintances do? “
Of training course, the central premise with the managing partner’s response was that to keep the gears of the particular firm’s billable hour/leverage spouse model turning smoothly, he needed to maintain the young associates busy billing per hour. The existing paradigm of his attorney required that it keep hiring associates to boost partner leverage and make certain that they efficiently billed clients per hour, with a significant percentage of each associate’s billed time directly entering the partner’s pockets. Left using this business model was perhaps the clients’ best interests were properly served from the model that best served regulations firm’s partnership.
Clearly, this attorney was not well maintained, which might serve as a possible excuse for the taking care of partner’s self-serving perspective about client IP legal companies. However, my experience being a corporate buyer of IP legitimate services further revealed that the billable hour/leverage partner enterprize model was an arrangement in which frequently ut the client–which was now me–after regulations firm’s interests.
As an in-house advice spending several $100K’s annually for legal services at several respected IP firms, I consistently felt that whenever I called outside counsel for assistance the initial thought that popped in to the lawyer’s mind was “So pleased she called–I wonder simply how much work this call will probably lead to? ” Most of the time, I got the perception that my outside IP legal professionals viewed my legal concerns as problems so they can solve on a hourly basis, not as conditions that might affect the profits with the company for which My partner and i worked. The difference will be subtle, but critical: the context with the former is lawyer being a service provider, whereas the latter is lawyer being a business partner.
Against these kinds of experiences, I was not astonished at what I observed recently when discussing my feelings in regards to the billable hour/leverage model using a partner friend at one of many top IP specialty law firms in the usa. This partner echoed my sentiments in regards to the need for innovation inside IP client services. Nonetheless, she also indicated that a lot of of her firm’s lovers do not recognize that there are a problem with the direction they currently provide IP legal services with their clients. As she advised it, many of her more senior partners are already living well on the particular billable hour/leverage model, so they really currently see little must modify their behavior. My partner friend however realizes that her attorney is critically ill and probably will soon experience something comparable to sudden cardiac arrest. Regrettably, she is not a part of her law business’s management and, since there’s no upper level recognition that change is necessary, it would serve little purpose on her behalf to raise her worries to those partners which could effect change (and may possibly not be politically expedient for her to take action).
The failure of the currently well-compensated IP attorney partners to recognize the shifting winds of these client’s acceptance of their particular billing practices–the fundamental basis of these law firm’s business model–mirrors the particular response of entrenched passions throughout history to innovations that failed to mesh with their existing enterprize model paradigm. Moreover, the inability of many IP attorneys to recognize the weather for change leads myself to believe that a number of these venerated law firms will soon fulfill the fate of buggy whip manufacturers if they cannot innovate in the manner where they provide legal services with their clients.
Playing out this kind of analogy, buggy whip manufacturers met their demise since they thought they were inside the buggy whip business if they were actually in the particular transportation business. When push chair whips became obsolete, thus did these formerly productive manufacturers. Notably, buggy whip manufacturers possessed the opportunity to change and thrive inside the new world of the car. They already held strong business relationships with all the buggy manufacturers that became the initial automobile companies. They also employed skilled craftsmen who may have turned their efforts to be able to making leather seat covers or other areas of the automobile. These buggy whip manufacturers needed simply to accept that they necessary to ride the wave of innovation occurring during those times and reinvent themselves since suppliers to automobile manufacturers as opposed to buggy makers.