Selling time

Deepak Malhotra’s post From narrative to value in Legal Village early in the month caught my eye. This sums up the dilemma for law firms:

“Law firms sell time and legal skills. From the perspective of in-house counsel, we buy legal outcomes. There is a huge difference between process and end result. Until we start talking the same language, I see that this debate about fees is going to remain and its intensity will only increase. This is where the hourly rate is limited, because the hourly rate is process and it implies that it operates independent of outcome.”

Selling time is not what we should be doing, and things are changing. How quickly is another matter. The problem is that it is considerably easier to sell time than value, and when I have argued the matter with my partners (most of whom are wedded to the chargeable hour), their usual reply is that if it works, why change it. The point they are missing is that either we will have to change, or clients will change us.