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BigLaw Partners Duke It Out Over the Billable Hour

Back in December, Cravath Swaine & Moore head partner Evan Chesler fired the legal profession's equivalent of the shot heard 'round the world when he called for the end of the billable hour. Now, U.K.-based publication The Lawyer is reporting that managing partner Peter Kalis of K&L Gates is firing back, suggesting that Chesler's remarks were reactionary, rather than revolutionary. Said Kalis in an interview with The Lawyer:

Enlightened law firms for years have been offering alternative fee arrangements to clients. To hear a leader of a Wall Street firm recently issue a clarion call for alternative fees was amusing.

One wonders whether his call to action might have something to do with preserving margins in an era in which they are severely threatened.

Chesler rejected Kalis' comments as unfair, explaining that he had long been a proponent of alternative billing even before the economy declined. Chesler explained that his remarks were intended to reinforce for all lawyers what clients have wanted for a long time -- the ability to control costs and match costs against value received.

So who's right? You'll have to wait for the full-length feature article, due out on March 30, to judge. In the meantime, we'll note that according to The American Lawyer's Layoff List, K&L Gates cut 36 associates last week (H/T Above the Law) while Cravath still hasn't officially downsized. Based on this evidence, it appears that perhaps Kalis' implications about Cravath's declining margins may be misplaced.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on March 18, 2009 at 03:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

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