Charging by time only is unpopular with clients and has given various governments excuses to cut legal aid. Maybe a new system is needed.
I have been thinking more about time management following a book I read recently and reviewed. Better time management is something we would probably all benefit from, but somehow never get quite right. The truth is our time is not our own and we cannot arrange our working lives as we would wish. No matter what tasks you set yourself to do, clients and colleagues break in on that agenda and impose different priorities.
I really think the solution is for the profession to lose its obsession with time or at least charging by time. Do other professions charge by time only? Would you engage a contractor to do any work and pay them by reference to the time the work has taken? When you buy a pound of apples does the greengrocer say ‘I charge £x per hour, I don’t know how long it will take to weigh a pound of apples and put them in a bag. My estimate is two minutes. I will notify you in writing if I need to change my estimate’?
Charging by time only is unpopular with clients and has given various governments excuses to cut legal aid. Successful firms nowadays offer fixed prices. I expect a sharp rebuke on the basis that being a solicitor is different from a greengrocer, and, who goes to a greengrocer anyway? You go to a supermarket. But in terms of charging, people want to know how much the whole thing will cost.
David Pickup is a partner at Aylesbury-based Pickup & Scott