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Does The Billable Hour Conflict With Your Business Model?

Nobody has a crystal ball that can foretell the future with complete accuracy, but it's a pretty good bet that the future of one's business (which is something any Managing Partner should be thinking about) will have a lot to do with the wellbeing of its people.

Which raises an interesting question: Does continued reliance on the billable hour as an exclusive metric for performance serve the best interests of a firm's people? If not, why not think about-- or appoint a committee of others to think about-- the incorporation of alternative metrics, as a measure of performance?

No one (certainly, not me) is suggesting that the baby be thrown out with the bath water, such that the billable hour is completely jettisoned-- incremental change allows for the ability to later address unanticipated consequences. The critical piece of the process is demonstrated flexibility and a willingness to think creatively.

Concededly, revenue is all about today and many people concerns are about tomorrow. That doesn't mean, however, that critical concerns about tomorrow can be deferred to a later date, in order to prioritize the interests of today. The two can-- and should-- be balanced responsibly, to serve both individuals and the institution for which they toil.

The billable hour is the status quo, and that must change. Lawyers can be a shining example of that change-- for the good of not only their institutions, but also for the good of their people. "Me" and "my" can become "us" and "ours", by minimizing billable hours and emphasizing new performance metrics-- metrics that measure the value of the individual to the collective enterprise in new, alternative ways.

Measuring time is easy, but it doesn't account for the toll that it takes on the people being measured, and that is simply not sustainable.

Wellbeing is a critical facet of sustainability-- let's make that our new business model!


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