Has hourly billing gone past its sell-by date?

The legal market's own variation on the old Henry Ford Model-T maxim of, "any colour so long as it is black", or "any method of billing as long as it is hourly" is showing signs of ageing.

SJ Berwin's announcement that it is to offer clients fixed fees for all IP litigation cases is the first significant move by a large private practice to offer structured choice in the legal market.

The offer makes good marketing sense. It focuses not on price, but on service, value and choice.

The problem with hourly billing is that it is an antiquated system that breeds client resentment.

Countless surveys reveal that it is not the high fees that clients resent but the lack of sufficient justification for them.

However, clients should not be lulled into a false sense of security that increased choice equals decreased prices. You only have to look at the consumer goods market to see the redundancy of that belief.