As they say, a picture paints a thousand words. Today’s Dilbert comic poignantly illustrates the disconnect between lawyers who bill by the hour — and who believe the quantity of hours is both a measure of quality and a measure of financial success — and the rest of the business community, in which making money while you sleep is the true measure of success.
Lest this come across as some sort of new age anti-work philosophy, the concept is really quite simple: Successful businesses embrace the learning curve business model, in which efficiency gained from prior experience provides a competitive cost advantage. Business leaders with a continuous improvement mindset don’t value workaholics who toil furiously and endlessly at a task and generate high volume as much as they value those who can do more with less, exploiting experience to find more effective ways to generate similar or better results in less time. This excess capacity is then deployed against new projects, in turn generating new financial returns. So the true measure of success is making more profit in less time.
As the legal profession evolves, a necessary outcome is moving away from the silly notion that hours are a measure of anything other than cost. When we decouple hours from compensation, or more accurately when we begin to pay more to those lawyers who can generate comparable revenue and profits in less time, and when clients shift to paying for outcomes rather than for production, then innovation in the legal profession will accelerate.
Think about all of this after you’ve finished billing your time today. We’ll be at the pool with a cold daiquiri waiting for you.
Timothy B. Corcoran is the immediate past President of the Legal Marketing Association and an elected Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management. He delivers keynote presentations, conducts workshops, and advises leaders of law firms, in-house legal departments, and legal service providers on how to profit in a time of great change. To inquire about his services, contact him at +1.609.557.7311 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.