Innovation is worrisome to outside law firms. In most cases, at best it is given passing lip service as part of the DNA of any law firm attempting to keep pace with the changing market of working for in house legal departments. At worst, innovation is the object of secret fear and loathing. The billable hour is comfortable, predictable, measureable. The problem is, your clients don’t care about that. You are in business for them, not the other way around.
But to all of those in secret fear of innovation and giving alternative fee arrangements a try, take heart, and be not afraid, for I bring good news. In actual, real-life practice, the flat monthly subscription alternative fee arrangement works, and is popular with in house legal departments looking for greater cost control over outside legal fees.
In the past year a large, multi-state errors and omissions insurer was looking to its outside counsel to offer alternative fee options. I matched them up with the monthly flat fee subscription arrangement with limits on the duration of the subscription for the matters they assigned us. At the time we were doing work for this legal department in only one state – Pennsylvania.
The mechanics are straight forward – I conduct a brief review of every new assignment to get a sense for the size and probable case duration, and then provide the in house legal department with a quote for handling the case, expressed in a set payment per month with a maximum duration of months. Each side can request to renegotiate the case duration if there are major changes in case complexion during the life of the case. Trial prep, trial, and appeal are separately negotiated if necessary on either an hourly fee or flat fee per day basis with parameters on the number of agreed upon days, at the option of the client .
We are now a year into the program, and we are now working for this insurer in five states, not one. They have fed back to us the following about the program:
- the primary benefit to this insurer’s claims operation is the injection of some cost – certainly into an inherently cost-uncertain endeavor — litigation;
- cost-efficiency of the subscription arrangement grows with the number of assignments made on that basis;
- they like the billable hour comparison data we provide so they can compare the relative cost, and benefits received, by the monthly subscription arrangement;
- they enjoy the ability to adjust the subscription duration should new developments in the case, changes in parties, etc., take place during the life of the case; and
- they appreciate the fact that we often “no charge” them for any months in which no substantial work takes place due to factors beyond our control, and they are willing to extend the subscription duration for a corresponding length in exchange.
Innovation in outside law firms can be taken beyond merely lip service. It can be put into practice when it comes to alternative fees, and it can be successful for both the lawyer and the client.
For more information on how to deliver efficient, and cost-effective service to your in house legal department through the use of flat monthly subscription and other alternative fee arrangements, reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-731-4800.