A racket in retreat.

Author:Peters, Charles
Position:Billable hours of lawyers and consultants - Editorial

Among the many billing problems that encourage mischief, two show signs of reform. One involves lawyers, the other political consultants. For lawyers, it's billable hours; with consultants, it's percentage billing.

The billable hour requires lawyers to break down their day into time segments, often as short as fifteen minutes, and assign each segment to work for a specific client. The practice tempts lawyers to lie about the time or work too hard. In many cases, they do both. The result is inflated bills to the client and exhausted lawyers. The good news is that the clients are waking up, with the dash of cold water sometimes coming in the form of a bill for more than twenty-four hours of work in the same day from the same lawyer. The result, according to Slate's Lisa Lerer, is that clients are insisting on negotiating flat fees.

As for political consultants, the racket involved taking a percentage of the "buy," the major element of which is...

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