Tuesday, November 11, 2008, 10:00 AM

We Get It. Let US Move on.

Pamela V. Rothenberg's response to the National Law Journal Article “Billing gets creative in souring economy”

All of this talk about the dead billable hour and alternative fee arrangements is starting to get boring. Maybe it is because I am an activator and just need to move on and get stuff done. Maybe it is because at my firm, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, we have been offering creative billing arrangements, including fee caps, flat fees, success fees, contingent fees, blended rates, shared risk arrangements, retainers and the like, for many years and all of this seems like old news to me. Perhaps it is because it feels like we are stating the obvious, to say the least, that clients are entitled to meaningful value for the legal fees they pay.

In any event, I am at the point (and so is my law firm) , especially given the continuing “financial crisis” and the impact that today’s severely difficult economic conditions is having on our clients and friends in the business community, of wanting to move on from just talking about all of this to actually engaging in meaningful action. (I think I may go and dig out from the bottom of my closet my old Nike T-shirt that reads: “Just Do It,” and start wearing it again.)

Let me expand on my thoughts. Those of us who are fortunate enough (especially at this horrible time) to work at well-managed, innovative, nimble and truly collaborative law firms really “get it.” We understand the rationality of our clients’ needs to have predictable legal budgets for their varying litigation, transactional, regulatory and government relations matters. We also fully comprehend that “value” is defined by more than just cost – it includes a wide array of non-monetary features that are inextricably associated with extraordinary legal service --- legal service that is in every respect designed, produced and delivered in a manner that is truly responsive to clients’ articulated and specific needs, preferences and business objectives.

So here is my challenge to all of the buyers of legal services that are out there clamoring for change – for improved pricing and service delivery approaches – for the creation of a new business model by the private law firm sector – please come sit down at the table with my Womble Carlyle colleagues and me and, as Susan Hackett and our other friends at ACC suggest, let’s build a better mousetrap. We will even treat you to lunch (and we won’t charge it through to you on our bill). We will bring with us only those colleagues that will truly add value to our discussion and we will let you know in advance every one that may show up at the lunch. We will not charge you for any first year associates in attendance (that we may decide to include for training purposes and so that they have a chance of developing into more responsive and client-connected lawyers). We will not try to make “new law” at the lunch.

We will simply roll up our sleeves, with a pencil and pad in hand, and actively listen to your needs. We will strive to develop with your input a customized client service solution, including predictable legal fee budgets, creative billing arrangements and other non-monetary components, that will result in our firm better enabling you to achieve your business objectives and successes.

We, at Womble Carlyle, promise to go above and beyond. We are fearless and creative about developing tactics that are responsive to your needs and that position us to deliver extraordinary and high value legal services. For those of you that are willing to embrace the change that you want to see in the legal profession – please join me and let’s “Just Do It.”

Pamela V. Rothenberg is Managing Member of Womble Carlyle's Washington, D.C. office.

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