As I sit down to write my annual list of resolutions for contractors, I am amazed at how much things changed in 2020. Construction was going well and then, in March 2020, COVID-19 hit. At first, we thought it was going to be a disaster for the construction industry. States, cities and towns shut down projects and many applied for PPP loans. Then, something amazing happened. Construction was considered an essential service and everyone was back to work.  That said, the work world changed: companies were donating their PPE to frontline workers, COVID-19 protocols had to be followed and paperwork had to be filed. Everyone was scrambling to figure out how to comply and keep their businesses going. So, you may or may not ask, what was I, as a construction lawyer doing? I spent March and April thinking about the new risks contractors/construction companies were facing and developing contract clauses to protect the industry. I wrote a number of blog posts with clauses to add to your contra

Moving Away from the Billable Hour in Construction Law

I am going to tell you a secret. Most lawyers hate the billable hour. It is hard for us to keep track of our time, even with all of the latest software and technology. Most clients do not understand why some activities take so much of our time. They don't understand the value we provide. That is why more and more lawyers are trying to change the way they charge and use flat fees and other means to bill their clients.

The other day, I had an epiphany. As a lawyer who works mostly in the construction industry, I should bill like contractors. I could prepare a proposal and scope of the work, and notify the client in advance what I would charge. If things changed dramatically, we would execute a written change order that would be signed by the parties. Everyone would be on the same page, and there would be no surprises.

This is easier to do in some areas than others. I pretty much know how much time it takes me to draft a contract, write a demand letter or file a mechanic's lien. The trickiest area is in litigation. The minute you file suit, you have no control over the process. The other side can make it quick, or drag the lawsuit out and make it incredibly time consuming and expensive.

However, I am doing research and trying to figure it out. I have never been comfortable with the fact that the first time I write a motion, it will take much longer and cost the client more money than the tenth time I write it. The billable hour does not encourage efficiency, and I am very efficient. I do not want my clients to be afraid to call me because they believe it will be costing them extra money to speak with me. Those conversations can frequently prevent problems and save money in the long run. So, look for some changes in the way I practice. They are coming soon.

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