Until sometime around 2008, the law firm client service model was fairly well established. Most lawyers charged by the hour to handle clients’ legal problems. Some practice areas tended to charge flat or contingent fees by tradition, like criminal defense and consumer bankruptcy (flat) and personal injury and employment discrimination (contingent). From the client’s perspective, lawyers’ hourly fees were quite high—usually well over $100/hour. But due to lawyers’ extremely low utilization rates (how much of lawyers’ time actually converts to billable time)—especially at solo and small law firms without the advantages of scale—most lawyers were making pretty average income. It wasn’t great for anyone, in other words, but everyone kept at it because nobody expected anything different.

The economic collapse of 2008 prompted many lawyers and clients to rethink the way they wanted to work together. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 forced all lawyers out of their comfort zones, and many began to explore even further what alternative models for client service might work better—for lawyers and clients. Between these two defining events, new client service models emerged.

Client service innovation often involves other innovations, like limited-scope representation or outsourcing, that make alternative client service models possible.

Published on March 11th, 2021. Last updated on April 30th, 2021, by Sam Glover.