Is your IP attorney stuck in the sand?

Posted by Douglas Sorocco at April 10, 2005 05:20 PM

Ostrich with head in the sandIs your IP attorney stuck in the sand?

You know the type – always too busy to return your call.  Always too busy to sit down with your technical staff and explain legal principles and concepts in an understandable manner.  Always too busy to stop by the lab or manufacturing plant to see what is new.  Always too busy. 

Always – just – too – busy.

This attorney is stuck in the sand – the metaphorical sand of the billable hour.  It can be the billable requirement that their firm imposes on them (I just heard the other day that it is creeping up to 2300 hour mark in the Philadelphia area) or it may be the strict adherence to the billable hour model of charging for services. 

However it is being used – the billable hour is the sand keeping the attorney from truly integrating themselves into your business or technology.  Putting in the extra “non-billable” time isn’t valued by the attorney because it isn’t valued by their firm.  Therefore, they are always “too busy” to do the other things that nurture and foster a relationship focused on the well-being of the client and their business. 

It isn’t valued anywhere in the legal revenue generation food chain.

An example: patent drafting and prosecution is extremely susceptible to alternative billing models – but many patent attorneys don’t offer them.  Oh, they may say that they do by offering to prepare and file the application for a “fixed fee”. 

The truth — they are still gauging the fee on billable hour methodologies.  They are determining the number of hours it will take – let’s say 40 – and multiplying that by their billable rate – let’s say $200 – and coming up with an “alternative” – i.e. I will prep this application for you for $8,000.  The client walks away thinking that they just got a “deal” and that the attorney will be working harder for them because, Afterall, the attorney is willing to be flexible and learn about the business.

See the shell game?  The patent attorney is stuck in the sand – they can’t get away from the billable hour even when determining an “alternative” fee.  They just “presold” the client a specific number of hours of their time.  The attorney has even less incentive to spend extra time with the client now – not more. 

So – the next time your patent attorney offers you a flat fee arrangement, find out their hourly rate first.  They are your hours – you might as well figure out how many you actually bought.

The image is from the The Social Customer Manifesto blog – one to read, if you know what I mean.

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Doug Sorocco had an interesting post about the billable hour in the rethink(ip) blog, and I agree with a good part of it. However, he makes it sound like the fixed fee is the billable hour cloaked in presold increments....

Trackbacked from Alternatives to the Billable Hour on Anything Under the Sun Made By Man.