Hourly rate billing is one of the truly unpleasant aspects of the lawyer-client relationship, for both the client and the lawyer. Personally, I’m trying to shift to mostly flat rate billing, but that isn’t a perfect solution either.

Clients hate hourly rate billing because it’s unpredictable. Lawyers hate it because clients always way underestimate how much time it takes to do things. That’s natural, because clients only see the end product. The client is thinking (and sometimes saying) “why am I getting billed six hours for a five page filing — I could write 5 pages in an hour on a cell phone keypad with one thumb!.” The client doesn’t see all the behind-the-scenes work that went into those five pages — the research, thinking, looking things up, going down false trails, reading 20 pages of fine print to find the relevant passage, etc. So clients always feel as though they’re being overcharged, and lawyers always feel under pressure to cut corners to keep the bill down.

I’ve found that one thing that helps a lot is not charging for client phone calls. Why? Several reasons: More »