Articles Posted in The Billable Hour Business Model

The case of Cass v. 1410088 Ontario Inc. contains this one sentence written by an Ontario Superior Court judge in the course of disallowing from an attorney’s fee request the amount designated for “legal research”:

“If artificial intelligence sources were employed, no doubt counsel’s preparation time would have been significantly reduced.”

Padding on the hours billed for researching case law is a favorite method for bulking up legal fees related to court cases — for lawyers in the United States — as well as for those in Canada:

1. Thomson Reuters’ Canadian arm noted this:

“Judge says AI could have been used”, and “Courts mindful of technology”.

2. A Toronto-based intellectual property lawyer offered this observation:

“Really, that judge was saying, ‘If you can do this faster, why are you not doing it faster? Why are you charging your client for something that could be done more efficiently?”

3. And the CEO of legal AI pioneer Ross Intelligence Andrew Arruda tweeted:

“If artificial intelligence sources were employed, no doubt counsel’s preparation time would have been significantly reduced.

“… IT’S HAPPENING FOLKS.”

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Thus began an October 15 article in “Above the Law” — one of the leading news websites directed at lawyers — particularly lawyers employed by law firms as “associates”.

Under the headline “Biglaw Firm Makes It That Much Harder to Get Your Bonus”, here’s the complete text of the first paragraph:

“As we enter the home stretch to make billable hour targets in advance of bonus season, one firm is changing the ground rules on its associates and robbing them of a small but significant chunk of time that they’ve always been able to count toward their 2100 hour minimum.”

Quite appropriately the reporter focuses on what this means for specific interests of the law firm associates who are his readers.

But for a business lawyer concerned with managing a company’s legal affairs, what jumps out is something else. This is a timely reminder of the cockroach-like survival of the billable hour — and of its business model corollary: The pursuit of “associate leverage”.  

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