Endangered species: Corporate lawyers who bill by the hour

With clients demanding greater efficiency for their legal buck, law firms, nationally and here in Baton Rouge, are increasingly offering alternative fee arrangements.

No longer is it just about billable hours, as Business Report detailed in a 2015 feature on the unique fee structures which allow businesses to better predict their legal budgets.

“Clients want their law firms to be more innovative,” says Kean Miller Managing Partner Linda Perez Clark, who assumed the role yesterday and expects the trend to rise in popularity in 2019. “We’ve always had estimates on what a (legal) matter would cost, but they weren’t as precise as they can be with these types of arrangements.”

In recent years, Clark says a growing number of Kean Miller clients are asking for alternative fee arrangements, ranging from flat fees for transactional work to blended rates.

Skip Phillips, a partner at Taylor Porter, says the frequency of alternative fee arrangements depends on the nature of the firm’s practice and its client mix.

Larger and savvier national clients, such as insurance companies, typically know to ask for unique pricing structures, he says, whereas smaller businesses might be better served getting billed by the hour, depending on the circumstances.

Still, Phillips says he’s gotten more inquiries than in years past from prospective clients on alternative fee arrangements as businesses become increasingly familiar with the business of law.

“Don’t expect a groundswell change in the way our firm deals with our clients on a business basis,” says Phillips, “but with economic pressures and technology reducing the costs of legal representation, I’d expect our clients to want to benefit from it.”

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