Chief Justice Robert French AC has called for the legal profession to further explore alternatives to time-based billing.
Addressing the Law Society of NSW's annual member dinner last night (28 October), Chief Justice French said he was glad to see the profession is already examining time costing and that he hopes such debates will continue.
"It [time costing] is seen in some quarters as an encumbrance on our profession, placing a premium on inefficiency," he said.
"I'm glad to see that there is some ongoing contemporary debate and moves, so I am informed tonight by Glenn Ferguson on the Law Council, to look more closely at alternatives to the practice."
Chief Justice French added that he recalled practising as a solicitor before the age of timesheets, as well as the very moment his firm introduced billable hours.
"I remember the beggarly voice of our accountant who said this is just a management tool," he said. "It is generally recognised that time costing has gone far beyond the status of a management tool."
He noted that in the 38 years since he was admitted as a practitioner, there has been ongoing and "relentless" attempts by all facets of the legal sector to mitigate the worst costs and delays associated with litigation, but that "there are certain practical aspects such as the gathering, the hearing and the analysis of evidence which on the part of the practitioner and the judge are inescapably labour intensive".