The blawgosphere is buzzing with reports that the billable hour is dying, but as Mark Twain once quipped, “The report of my death was an exaggeration”.
It all started where most trends start – Los Angeles. The Southern California stalwart O’Melveny & Myers updated its vision with a five year plan that called for, among other things, flat rate billing for transactional work. Now it appears two other Big Law firms may follow suit. Mayer Brown and Reed Smith are both considering doing the same.
Does this mean first year associates can look forward to eight hours of sleep per night? Is the pressure to rack up billable hours going to vanish? Doubtful. This is three firms and one area of law. The billable hour remains very much in the driver’s seat otherwise.
It’s worth noting that O’Melveny is the first major firm to make this transition, but the path was paved by smaller firms, like Bartlit Beck and Raymond & Bennett, looking to attract clients that want the security of knowing what their fees will total up front, a strong selling point in an economic downturn.