Law Practice Management Asked and Answered Blog

Category: Alternative

Mar 15, 2016

Law Firm Alternative Billing – What Do Clients Think


Our firm is a 18 attorney firm based in Tucson, Arizona. Our practice is a boutique general liability defense firm. Our clients tend to be self insured large corporations and smaller business firms. Currently all of clients are billed by the hour. Recently we have been discussing whether we should propose an alternative billing approach to our clients. We would be interested in your thoughts.


I do not want to discourage alternative billing – there are a lot of benefits that can be obtained – however I find that firms practicing your type of law and that have your type of clients that alternative is talked about more than actually implemented. You may find that your clients like the thought of the certainty of fixed fees but have concerns about the quality of representation under such arrangements. Recently, a litigation defense law firm asked me to interview their clients concerning their satisfaction with the law firm. When asking one general counsel about his thoughts regarding alternative billing he told me:

"My concern with fixed fee billing is that there might not be the financial incentive for the law firm to dedicate all the resources and best efforts to obtain the best results for our company. I prefer hourly billing with case management plans and budgets. I want our law firms to be financially successful as long as they achieve results for our company and not be penalized or constrained by fixed fee arrangements."

You may find that your clients are open to discussing alternative billing arrangements but may be hesitant when it comes to implementation. They are comfortable with hourly billing.

With this said I think you should explore the dialog with maybe one pilot client and see where the discussion leads. Insure that you do the proper analysis of that client's billing history, overall risks, and develop a fixed fee strategy that not only allows you to attain your desired billing rate but provides for a risk premium as well. Also build in ability to take exceptions for matters that fall outside the scope of the fixed fee arrangement.

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John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC



Mar 03, 2015

Sale of Law Practice and Alternative Approaches


I am the owner of a solo practice located in the western Boston suburbs. I have been considering selling my practice. Do you see many practitioners selling their practices?


Yes, I am seeing many solo practitioners selling their practices. However, I also see many lawyers looking to exit their practice start by thinking that they will sell their practice. However, when all is said and done the arrangements often take one of the following arrangements:

  1. Admitting an existing associate to partnership and then having the associate buy out the owners partnership interest in a retirement payout.
  2. Bringing in an associate and mentoring and grooming them, admitting the associate to partnership when he or she is ready, and then having the associate buy out your partnership interest in a retirement payout. Sometimes partnership interests are sold gradually over time.
  3. Merger with another law firm.
  4. A wind-down of the practice and then Of Counsel relationship with another firm with a client transition/payout arrangement.

Many solo practitioners are often taken back by the inflexibility of some of the various state rules of professional conduct concerning sale of law practices and find the above approaches more flexible.

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John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

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