I co-authored an article ten years ago examining the billable hour model as used by law firms. The article examined both the history of how the billable hour model came into existence and made the argument that the model was unsustainable in modern law practice. If you remember, ten years ago was around the time of The Great Recession and every business was hurting. The Great Recession was supposed to be the turning point when clients rose up to demand more predictable and fair pricing from law firms – except that never really happened. Clients asked for better pricing and law firms responded by slashing their overhead, mostly in the form of laying off associates, and offering short-term discounts on their hourly rates. Once the worst of the economic hardship passed, law firms began rehiring and slowly increased their rates again. The broken model continued.
I have never lost my belief that the billable hour is a terrible way to bill clients, especially in areas of law, such as business and transactional law, that are not as susceptible to wide variation in output. I have spent ten years thinking about alternative fee arrangements, experimenting with flat fee billing arrangements, and tinkering with automating and streamlining document and administration workflows. I have learned what is important to clients (responsiveness and a genuine, caring attitude) and what is not (fancy office space). I have also learned new technologies and how to harness them to work together in the most efficient way possible.
So now, right now in the middle of a global pandemic, the stars have aligned to bring me to a place of launching Abridge Law.
Why “Abridge Law”?
There are numerous studies and reports circulating in the legal industry that indicate that law firms currently only serve about 20% of the actual legal need of the U.S. population. That leaves 80% of the population either going without legal support or seeking support through cheap online alternatives that promise fast and simple solutions but deliver low quality documents and services that often times leave the user no better off than when they were on their own. “Abridge Law” is the embodiment of my commitment to try to close the gap between those with legal needs and the professionals who can serve them.
Do I have this new law firm model all figured out as a write this first blog post? No. Innovation is the combination of the creative process and regular experimentation. There will be adjustments and pivots along the way and I’m ready to take them on. I’m excited to see what we, as a firm can do in partnership with our clients, to bring about this sorely needed change in the legal industry.
There is only one thing stronger than all the armies of the world: and that is an idea whose time has come.– Victor Hugo