My wife and I attended a Mariners game tonight (Seattle's local baseball team) and ended up taking a cab home. On the way back, it occurred to me how great of a metaphor a cab is for exactly what I dislike about legal services that are billed by the hour.
When you get in a cab the meter starts and you usually pay by the mile. When you are in a city that you are not familiar with, it is often the case that the route on which you are driven is not necessarily the shortest route. Even when it is the shortest route, you often do not have enough familiarity with the area to verify that. Whether the driver takes advantage of it or not, there is a financial incentive to drive you farther than you need to go and cost you more time and money. All I could do was watch and be amazed at how fast that electronic meter racked up the dollars.
That's a lot like modern legal service that charges by the billable hour. Most clients are seeing an attorney because they are not familiar enough with the work that needs to be done to do it without the attorney. The attorney has the upper hand on information, and the client must often trust the attorney to take the client down the shortest, most cost-effective path. While we must hope that all attorneys have the highest ethical standards and put the client's interests before their own, why create an incentive in the first place that misaligns the attorney's interests and the client's interests?
The solution is simple, flat fees. Boswell IP has charged flat fees since day one. If you work with us, you will get a fixed quote at our first meeting that will tell you exactly how much you pay for the work. Imagine how the cab driver's incentives would change if he knew he was getting a flat $20 fee to drive you from the airport to your hotel. He would take the quickest route, because he would want to get the $20 and get back to the airport to pick up more passengers. The same is true of flat fees. Rather than an incentive to waste time and increase cost, the attorney has an incentive to get the work done and the client knows exactly how much he/she will pay.
The moral of the story is, don't trust your legal work to an attorney that charges like a cab driver.