find the latest legal job
Corporate/Commercial Lawyers (2-5 years PAE)
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Specialist commercial law firm · Long-term career progression
View details
Graduate Lawyer / Up to 1.5 yr PAE Lawyer
Category: Personal Injury Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Mentoring Opportunity in Regional QLD · Personal Injury Law
View details
Corporate and Commercial Partner
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Full time · Join a leading Adelaide commercial law firm
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Sydney NSW
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
Billable alternatives need skills lawyers don’t have

Billable alternatives need skills lawyers don’t have

Calls are continuing for alternatives to the billable hour, writes Angela Priestley, but do Australian lawyers have the capacity to manage alternative pricing arrangements? There's no doubt that…

Calls are continuing for alternatives to the billable hour, writes Angela Priestley, but do Australian lawyers have the capacity to manage alternative pricing arrangements?

There's no doubt that fixed fee and alternative pricing arrangements can present some inherent risks for law firms. In traditional law firms, where timesheets have long been the order of the day, changing the course of billing methods is no easy feat and it would be a tough challenge for lawyers to shift their mindset from six minute increments to reguarly deploying leaps of faith by scoping out with a client just how much their legal services are worth.

The answer, according to Liz Harris, a cost consultant with Allocatur Consulting, may well lie in seriously investing in a lawyer's project management skills.

She believes a better capacity for project management would provide lawyers with an increased sophistication to manage their budgets, to plan their matters, and forecast the extent of the legal work involved, while also negotiating with clients a fair pricing structure or fixed fee.

While a handful of large Australian law firms have undertaken some basic training with their lawyers, Harris is adamant that we are yet to see anything of substance demonstrating a true project management focus to emerge in Australia.

But internationally, the call for better lawyers to boast better project management skills is being heard. At Canadian firm McCarthy Tetrault, senior management is chasing what they label as better "cost predictability" by developing the project management capacity of their lawyers.

Canadian news outlet, the National Post, reports that the firm has also launched a technology solution to assist in better understanding the costs behind large pieces of litigation or a transaction. The software will assist lawyers in better project managing matters by assisting in their planning and estimating through project management templates each of the firm's lawyers can work through with their clients.

Meanwhile, US firm Dechert LLP is currently rolling out an initiative across the firm to train every associate and partner in project management skills. The Legal Intelligencer reports that the firm will bring a consultant on board to direct the training with a goal of better managing client concerns regarding costs, while also retaining a promise to provide alternative fee arrangements.

And it seems that the firms heeding the call for better project management appear to be lapping up the benefits. UK firm Eversheds noted via a press release late last year that it successfully negotiated a two-year deal with Tyco due to the focus the firm has placed on project management and metrics - as well as its fixed-fee arrangements .

Still, great lawyers don't necessarily make great business minds, nor negotiators or even forward planners. Can we really expect them to package all these things into one and make great project managers?

With some investment in tools, techniques and training - like at McCarthy Tetrault - it may well be possible.

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

Billable alternatives need skills lawyers don’t have
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Dec 18 2017
Summer in the city
Across Australia, a number of law students have kicked off their commercial law aspirations with the...
microscope
Dec 18 2017
‘Exorbitant legal fees’ under government microscope
With the growing number of class action proceedings in Australia, the government is looking at how ...
Funds, money, cash
Dec 18 2017
Law Access WA receives welcome funding
Law Access Western Australia has received a grant from the state government to fund its pro bono leg...
APPOINTMENTS
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'...
opinion
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...
Help
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 & ...