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Alternatives to Billable Hours

Attorneys Appearing in Court

Billable hours give attorneys a bad rap. You’ve probably heard the joke “What are you, paid by the hour?” about a billion times. The preconception about billable hours is that you’ll be sitting around, charging clients for work you’re not actually doing. While this preconception is often flawed - attorneys are, generally speaking, pretty hard working people - the fact that it exists causes problems for the profession. It’s also not necessarily the best way of charging clients; you might be missing out on efficiencies in your pricing structure. Here are some alternative payment systems that might serve your practice well.

Contingent and Reverse Contingent Fees

People love results, and these results based fees, perfect for civil cases like personal liability, are a great way of putting metrics to money. Contingent fees are charged as a portion of the settlement or judgement in a civil case, and that’s appealing for clients who might not have the money to pay unless they win. Obviously, you only want to charge contingent fees if you’re quite confident the case can succeed.

Reverse contingent fees are exactly what they sound like; everytime your client avoids having to pay a settlement or judgement, you get paid. It’s not always obvious how much liability you’re helping them avoid, but with well defined parameters, you should be able to piece something together that’s satisfying to both you and your client.

Flat Fees

Flat or fixed fees are very appealing to clients, because they know exactly how much your services are going to cost them. It’s not contingent on any other factors; how many hours you work, win or lose - the flat fee remains the same. That means a lot of legwork on your part; charging a flat fee that’s too low can mean you spend many more hours on a project than what you get paid. It does, however, make budgeting a little easier; you’ll always know what to expect from your clients in terms of financial remuneration.

Combined Approach

There’s nothing that says these approaches need to be all or nothing. You can have a flat rate + contingency fee, in order to give yourself some budgeting stability, which might allow you to take on less surefire cases. You can charge flat fees plus blended hourly rates, depending on the people working on the project. Be creative with your fees, and above all, be transparent about them - your clients will be happy.

At Attorneys on Demand, we have court appearance professionals who you can hire in a heartbeat for local counsel. This type of service is incredibly useful when you don’t have the staff to cover a court appearance, or don’t know any lawyers in a particular area; you could charge this as a blended hourly to your client, or you can keep our pricing in mind when creating flat fees for a client who you anticipate you’ll need local counsel for. All kinds of services can be incorporated in your fees; that’s why budgeting is so essential!