Easy Money (photo: Psychonaught/wikimedia)

Check out this double-speak in Politico as an uber-lobbyist lawyer describes why his firm won’t be charging by the hour any longer:


For years, firms have struggled to attract senior aides — particularly nonlawyers — who aren’t interested in tracking their every move for billing clients.

But now, firms like Holland & Knight are saying bye-bye to the billable hour.

The switch for its lobbying division is part of an emerging trend in Washington that some observers say could usher in a new era of competition between lobby shops and law firms for top talent.

“I think if you look out 10 years, this will be a very large trend … and we could either lead or follow,” said Rich Gold, head of Holland & Knight’s public policy and regulation group.

The firm, which reported bringing in $9.5 million for federal lobbying during the first six months of 2011, is not only getting rid of the billable hour, but lobbying professionals in the firm will no longer keep track of their time at all.

“This has the potential to be a real game breaker in law firm recruiting because it opens up a new vein of talented folks who have previously shunned law firms like a fruitcake at a Christmas buffet because of the billable hour,” McCormick Group headhunter Ivan Adler said.

What this means:

“Our elected-official targets are so amenable to our corrupting influence, we can accomplish what our clients want so quickly, that the hourly rate system is outmoded. Congresspersons are so eager to meet our demands, and in such record time, that the actual moments involved no longer accurately represent the value to our client. Going forward, we’ll take a percentage of the cash value to our clients instead. If we save a client one hundred million dollars in taxes over ten years, we’ll take ten percent. If we game the system so that our client earns that sum in one year, we’ll take our cut all at once.”

Back to Politico. These three paragraphs near the end of the article explain why:

And while the burden of documenting their every move is over, that doesn’t mean the firm will be able to completely dismiss how much time a client is taking up.

“You still need to manage a little bit of what you are doing, but there is none of the mechanics of feeling like you are over the retainer or feeling like you can’t bill time to this client because there is too much else going on,” Gold said.

Instead of billing time throughout the year, Holland & Knight allocates a percentage of the monthly retainer on the front end to each person working on the account.

Not every client is willing to allow its lobbyists to simply charge by the number of staff assigned to their projects:

Six months ago, Bracewell & Giuliani switched to a nonbillable accounting system. The firm — which has 12 professionals in its government affairs operation — also created a wholly owned subsidiary last month for its lobbying operation in order to allow nonlawyers managerial positions.

Bracewell & Giuliani’s Scott Segal said that the practice has almost entirely done away with billable hours, but there are some specific cases that make doing away with the billable hour completely difficult.

Clearly, K Street is moving away from accounting for its time, since the time required has become so miniscule. Congresspersons are so amenable to their pitches on behalf of clients that the pitch is brief and unaccountable.

Bought and paid for is a rotten way to run a democracy.