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ANALYSIS: Law Firm Clients Didn’t Expect Stay-at-Home Discounts

Aug. 13, 2021, 9:00 AM

As I mentioned earlier this week, I initially thought that law firm attorneys would bill less per case since social distancing restrictions were put in place to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic—but Bloomberg Law’s 2021 Remote Practice Survey results didn’t bear out my prediction. I also thought law firms’ clients would have the same prediction and expect to receive lower bills, since their attorneys weren’t traveling for work. But once again, our survey tells us that they actually had no such expectation—at least that’s what their law firm attorneys are saying.

About two-thirds of law firm survey respondents (68%) reported no increased expectation from their clients that their bills would be lower due to less frequent travel.

Because law firms in recent years have generally stopped billing clients for travel time unless client work is being performed in transit, it’s possible that the clients may no longer perceive that a change in attorney travel should affect their bills. But whatever the reason, apparently the time attorneys saved by not having to travel to and from courthouses, hearings, depositions, and meetings did not necessarily translate into more efficient work and subsequent savings on law firm invoices, contrary to what I thought.

Furthermore, most of our law firm survey respondents that bill clients (70%) reported no increase in fee write-offs since social distancing restrictions were put in place, while only 9% reported a write-off increase. This may indicate that law firms are working hard to address billing expectations with their clients early in the relationship to avoid post-bill adjustments. Additionally, this could be a reflection of more widespread adoption of alternative fee arrangements, such as flat fees, which offer clients greater certainty and fewer surprises.

Bloomberg Law subscribers can find more results from the Remote Work Survey on our Surveys, Reports & Data Analysis page.

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