find the latest legal job
Corporate Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Highly-respected, innovative and entrepreneurial Not-for-Profit · Competency based Board
View details
Chief Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Dynamic, high growth organisation · ASX listed market leader
View details
In-house Projects Lawyer | Renewables / Solar | 2-5 Years PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: All Australia
· Help design the future · NASDAQ Listed
View details
Insurance Lawyer (3-5 PAE)
Category: Insurance and Superannuation Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Dynamic organisation ·
View details
Real Estate & Projects Lawyer (6+ years PAE)
Category: Property Law | Location: Sydney CBD, Inner West & Eastern Suburbs Sydney NSW
· Top tier firm with offices nationally · High profile clients
View details
Ditching hourly billing requires full partner support

Ditching hourly billing requires full partner support

Successfully making the transition from hourly billing to value-based pricing requires the support of a firm’s entire partnership.


Successfully making the transition from hourly billing to value-based pricing requires the support of a firm’s entire partnership.

David Vilensky, the managing director of Perth-based firm Bowen Buchbinder Vilensky (BBV), made the decision to transition his firm from time billing to fixed-fee pricing on 1 July 2010 and credits the full support of his partners as a key element of the firm’s success.

“You have to have total buy-in from the whole firm,” said Vilensky speaking to Lawyers Weekly as the firm approaches its second full year of fixed-fee pricing this June. “You’ve got to have complete enthusiasm for the idea across the board and not just from the partners – all the lawyers, the whole firm. I think that’s been one of the secrets of our success.”

Vilensky was introduced to the idea of fixed-fee pricing two years ago when he attended a LawAustralasia conference at which pricing expert Ronald Baker was a keynote speaker.

“It was almost like a penny dropped. I felt a sense of, ‘This is what we’ve got to do’,” said Vilensky, who admits he was previously “very skeptical” about fixed-fee pricing. “This is the way forward. It’s a client driven concept. It’s not like lawyers trying to reinvent themselves. It’s actually what clients want. Clients want certainty … I do a lot of work in the mining and resources game. My mining clients absolutely love fixed fees. There are no arguments and it absolutely creates efficiency.”

Vilensky said that although the transition has been difficult, it has been “hugely successful” and the firm is now more profitable than it was when it operated on the traditional model of time billing.

“The initial concern for me was whether my partners would think I’ve lost the plot,” he said, describing how he pitched the idea of fixed-fee pricing to his partners after seeing Baker present at the conference. “I was worried about getting it wrong. And we did get it wrong. We made some terrible mistakes initially. The concept is to scope the client, not the matter.”

According to Vilensky, the implementation of value-based pricing and setting the firm’s fixed-price agreements took about six to eight months.

“We put an enormous amount of time, energy and resources [into it] … It was hard work,” he said.

To determine fees for work coming through the firm’s door, BBV established a value pricing committee, which consists of four people within the firm and meets twice a week.

“[The committee includes] pretty much everybody. All the lawyers of the firm except one or two very junior ones are eligible to sit on the value pricing committee. They meet every Tuesday and Thursday at 12 o’clock,” he said. “That’s part of the way the firm now operates. All new matters are brought to the value pricing committee.”

Aside from greater efficiency and profitability, Vilensky also noted the unforeseen advantages of introducing fixed-fee pricing to the firm, including a greater sense of collegiality amongst the firm’s staff.

“It’s amazing how when a lawyer presents a matter to the value pricing committee it’s almost as if the matter is being brainstormed,” he said. “It’s an unintended consequence. We never expected that benefit. [The intention] was to scope and price but it’s had all these spin-off benefits.”

Another positive flow-on effect of BBV’s transition to fixed-fee pricing, according to Vilensky, is the increase in happiness of the firm’s staff.

“They can’t believe it and think they’ve died and gone to heaven,” he said, explaining that in the last six months the firm, which has approximately 12 lawyers, has attracted three new young lawyers from other firms. 

“They love the idea of fixed fees and they work efficiently. They’ve still got billable targets but it’s through fixed fees … Our lawyers really are happy. And I’m happy!”

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Ditching hourly billing requires full partner support
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Aug 21 2017
Is your firm on the right track for gig economy gains?
Promoted by Crowd & Co. The way we do business, where we work, how we engage with workers, ev...
Scales of Justice, Victorian County Court, retiring judges
Aug 21 2017
Replacements named for retired Vic judges
Two new judicial officers have been appointed in the Victorian County Court, following the retire...
Aug 21 2017
LCA applauds proposed Modern Slavery Act
The Law Council of Australia has welcomed new recommendations for the development of a Modern Slaver...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...