Sometimes billing by the hour beats the alternative.
Yesterday’s Washington Post profiled (reg reqd) Robert Barnett of Williams & Connolly. Mr. Barnett has a virtual hammerlock on representing high-profile political and public figures who want to add “author” to their resume.
It’s a two step approach:
1. Find a niche that’s being over-charged:
Barnett’s rate of $975 an hour is a lot of money, but his transformational insight was to apply a lawyer’s fee structure to the work of an agent. Then it’s not necessarily so much money.
2. Realize that fee and hourly rate are not the same.
A traditional literary agent charges 15 percent of an advance. Barnett helped Bill Clinton sell “My Life” for a record $15 million. Clinton would have paid an agent $2.25 million; Barnett says he put in far fewer hours than the 2,308 he would have needed to work to bill $2.25 million.
His clients can do the math. “For someone like me, the savings are extraordinary,” author (James) Patterson says.
Mr. Barnett is certainly an exceptional lawyer with a unique practice.
But this part of his practice shows that billing by the hour can qualify an alternative fee arrangement.