By Mark Robertson
When it comes to alternative billing strategies, Mark Robertson not only helped write the book, he has made them a cornerstone of his thriving transactional practice. Here's his take on the upside of upending your fee structure.
· The payoff. Let me give a concrete example. Last year, over 22 percent of my work was done using an alternative billing arrangement. My quoted standard rate was $225 an hour for most work and $250 an hour for certain specialty work. For the matters using alternative billing, my realized collected rate was over $375 an hour, and in a certain type of corporate work over $1,090 per hour. I work less and make more—that works for me, and should work for you, too.· How to get started. Remember that keeping track of hours is a measure of your cost—not your value to your client. Many practices have work that's uniquely suited to alternative billing. Ask yourself, "What do I do in my practice with enough frequency that I can accurately estimate the fee?" In an estate planning practice, for example, it might be preparing simple wills and powers of attorney. In my corporate practice, nearly every corporation, limited liability company and partnership that we prepare the documents for is done on a fixed-fee basis. There are, of course, matters in which hourly billing is the only way to proceed, such as in complex transactions or litigations. That is not to say, however, that a success fee, contingent fee or other alternative fee might not be appropriate over and above some agreed-on hourly rate.
Mark Robertson is a partner in the law firm of Robertson & Williams in Oklahoma City and a former Chair of the ABA Law Practice Management Section. He is coauthor of the ABA book Winning Alternatives to the Billable Hour: Strategies That Work, 2nd Edition.