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The Alternative Fee Landscape by Mind Map: The Alternative Fee Landscape
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The Alternative Fee Landscape

7. Value Billing

Embodied by Valorem Law Group

The firm offers a "Value line adjustment", Clients are able to make any adjustment to the proposed fees they feel needed, Insane but authentic - not only does it assist in respect of the fees, it says a lot about the firm

2. Variations on Hourly Billing (may not really be cast as alternative fees but included here for completeness)

% discounts

Can be graduated based on amount or spend or a flat discount

Challenging to administer if retrospective - How should it be applied fairly over a range of work or multiple jurisdictions?

May be factored into fees already so not a genuine reduction

blended hourly rates

Places the onus on the firm to properly allocated work

Blended rates should be designed with appropriate weightings of time to reflect the input of different levels of lawyers

Could be offered as an alternative to billed rates if that happens to be lower on a matter

3. Bonus

May apply to the whole portfolio or individual cases

Factors that may result in the bonus e.g. a win or turnaround within a particular time, May be linked with reduced fees and a bonus payable on satisfactory completion, A great example of this is Jeff Carr's ACES model(TM) for FMC Technologies, In practice may not sufficiently motivate advisers on the ground and be a pain in the neck for in-house teams to administer, Difficult if the matter is a long running one or there are many changes in strategy or scope

For the caseload as a whole, it maybe linked to a reduction in overall spend

Can work well with high value as opposed to routine work

Can present problems in terms of accrual accounting - What is the correct reserve for the case?

If it is linked to discounted fees what is the real benefit?

Contingency fees may not be acceptable in all jurisdictions

5. Fixed Fee Arrangements

Can relate to all or categories of work or individual cases

Offers an opportunity for in-house teams to identify what they think the work is worth (although be clear what the going rate is)

Works well where case load can be predicted/tasks are predicted

Difficult to manage from a firm perspective without excellent processes

Challenging to set the fee without good historic data, But if set at an appropriate level provides advantages to firms, Supports partnership with clients without spectre of the clock being turned on, Security of instalments, Firm can embed relationships with the business, May provide a platform from which to obtain premium work, If on a per case basis, encourages a through case analysis at the outset

May limit the firms wanting to provide the fee

Is there an effective strategy for management of work exceeding the fixed fee? A reversion to hourly rates there may be an incentive to blow through the fixed fee barrier

Good budget management tools are important, Can encourage opportunism from the business which may impact on insurance premiums and future fees

In-house teams should be invited to test assumptions in the Fixed Fee Agreement to ensure that it is robust, There is no point in agreeing a fee that is known to be a low ball figure. Either the work will not be performed well or requests for increases will be forthcoming

Could be a monthly or annual retainer, fixed fee per case

10. Determinants of Sucess

Understanding how the process will work is essential and process redesign may be a significant source of savings in itself

Focus on determining your priorities and aligning fees so as to encourage the lawyers to support those priorities

Don't assume one size fits all. Delineate between types of work

Consider how the different elements of an alternative fee proposal work together to create an effective and efficient picture

A detailed an specific breakdown of the work covered is essential

Jointly consider various scenarios to confirm that instructions are clear

Ongoing monitoring is very important and there is a close link with matter management, billing and reporting systems

If fee agreements are ignored on a regular basis, all the effort in negotiations is wasted

Have contingency plans in place to manage challenging situations

Make sure agreed variations are properly documented

Few firms are really adept at implementation of alternative fees. It is a genuine differentiator

4. Menu (Unit) Pricing

Strictly a fixed fee form of arrangement menu pricing is where specific prices are identified for tasks or phases

6. Cap and Collar

A cap is where fees are capped at a certain amount

In a collar arrangement, where the firm can drive fees below a certain amount there is a bonus of some form

4. Secondments

Can integrate well with the business

Can replace the need for work to be sent out to law firms

9. Possible future directions

Dynamic pricing as with airlines (see the comments on dynamic pricing by Ron Friedman of Prism Legal)

Mastermind group/Knowledge sharing network

e.g. Wiki based or private social network based options are available, Could crowdsourced legal advice ever be possible?

Combined fee proposals with LPO/performance of tasks in lower cost jurisdictions

Clearer integration with expert technologies

Opportunities for firms specialising in lean operations and lower cost based arrangements

Law firms could employ pricing experts i.e. specialists with the skills to assist in accurately assessing pricing for fixed fee bids

Novel Pricing Arrangements

Deal a day model

Subscription services e.g. a gym

Ultra-lean firms

Group deal style arrangements for lawyers

8. Outstanding Questions

How do you manage complex litigation or transactions where, at certain times, costs are being incurred quickly and rapidly developing issues inhibit accurate costs forecasts?

Hourly billing may well be the most suitable approach here but the issue is budget management and costs transparency

Is the relatively low take up of AFAs a sign of lawyers' resistance to change or an indication that in truth, hourly billing yields a reasonable result most of the time i.e. if it aint broke...

1. Why Consider Alternative Fee Arrangements?

AFAs are not a universal good but time based billing "rewards efforts and not results"

AFAs encourage discussions with firms about what the client considers to be of value and how they will measure success

It is a sad day when lawyers reveal the costs they have incurred and everyone knows it is vastly more than first discussed

Encourages firms to participate in cost control

More than cost control, your business may prioritise cost certainty and predictability in arrangements with a smaller number of firms. AFAs can help achieve this objective

Why not try them? - you can always revert to the status quo

Although they should not be undertaken without solid preparation to ensure that they accurately reflect the impact of the fee arrangement as opposed to the process (see Determinants of Success)

11. Resources on Alternative Billing and value based pricing

The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing (5th Edition) by Thomas Nagle, John Hogan and Joseph Zale (Mar 12, 2010)

Winning Alternatives to the Billable Hour: Strategies that Work by Mark A. Robertson

The End of Lawyers?: Rethinking the nature of legal services by Richard Susskind OBE

In Search of Perfect Client Service by Patrick Lamb

The LegalBizDev Guide to Alternative Fees by Jim Hassett