The weekly ABA newsletter tells us that some firms are looking at increasing billable hour quotas as a “strategy” to combat the looming recession.
It is rather anecdotal, but if even partially true, it won’t work, not this time. I can think of three reasons:
1. Clients are looking at cutting all expenditures, and outside legal costs are near the top of any GC’s (or CFO’s) hit-list.
2. When clients are cutting back on work and they hear the word “quota” they parse the underlying meaning with a concern: padding (or its variant, platinum-plating).
3. When work gets scarce at firms, partners who can tend to hoard, and partners and associates who can’t look for any file/matter number to slam an 0.3 here and there. Clients will be particularly watchful for new names on invoices.
The sole bright spot in this dark cloud: economic events may finally push in-house counsel to the point where they actually experiment more with alternate billing arrangements.
And that is called progress for clients, day-of-reckoning for many law firms, and opportunity for a few others.