Evan Chesler, the managing partner of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, has an article in Forbes with the give-away-the-conclusion title “Kill the Billable Hour”.

He proposes that lawyers and clients agree on a fee for the next few months worth of work, revisiting the agreed price as the case unfolds and everyone has more information about what the litigation will involve.

My reaction, as an appellate lawyer, is that fixed pricing for each stage of a case makes even more sense at the appellate level. In the trial court, the discovery process makes the scope of the case very fluid and unpredictable. Cases tend to grow to the size of their legal teams, especially if one side thinks it can overwhelm the other with paperwork. On appeal, everything is very focused — just a few briefs will decide whether you win or lose, no matter how many dollars or claims are at stake. Those briefs take serious work to prepare (more work than clients may expect, if their experience is with often hastily written trial court motions). But an experienced appellate lawyer can almost always quote a price based on the size of the record, the number of issues, and the stakes.

My preference is to offer clients a fixed price for each phase of the appeal. Yet, once in a while, a client seems to prefer the ongoing suspense of an hourly clock.

I should send them Mr. Chesler’s article.

Via: How Appealing