None of attorney Scott Turow’s legal thrillers (Presumed Innocent, Reversible Errors, etc.) have triggered the level of law firm tension and intrigue created by his essay, "The Billable Hour Must Die," the cover story for the ABA Journal (and excerpted from the book, Raise the Bar).
What's so bad about billable hours? Turow’s premise is that the billable hour creates a conflict of interest “almost in defiance” of professional ethic guidelines. Turow notes that the billable hour rewards inefficiency and creates an incentive to prolong the case since the longer it lasts, the bigger the fee.
And the replacement? Unfortunately, Turow has no suggestions for alternatives to the legal profession’s golden goose, adding that “it will take some education and experimentation on both sides.” Congratulations to Turow; it's a brave stance for a litigator to take. But will the 700 lawyers at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, his law firm, initiate some of that experimentation in their billing practices? (BTW, in 2004, Sonnenschein partners earned over $700,000 a year by means of that darned hourly billing.)