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Legal Business

Should Clients Pay for Meetings

Yesterday I noted in passing the client objection to paying for meetings. This is also a question that has come up repeatedly at recent training courses I've done.

In all my years on the client side, I usually pushed against paying for meetings involving, say, three or more people. I'm very aware that many meetings - probably the majority - are poorly run, inefficient, and often an excuse to act like you're working on something without really accomplishing much. (See yesterday's footnote on the physics definition of "work.")


A well-run meeting can be the most efficient way of working on a given aspect of a matter. Here are two examples:

  1. Consider a complex litigation, where various smart people from the firm are planning case strategy. The best way by far to work on strategy is in a team setting, so everyone is hearing and reacting to the same information. What Pat says may set off a spark in Sandy, which is refined in turn by Robin.
  2. A senior attorney is giving direction to a ten-person team. She can cover it all in 30 minutes, or she can spend 15 minutes individually with each of the other nine folks repeating herself. Which would you rather pay for: 30 minutes of $600/hour time plus 270 total minutes at an average of $250/hour (includes paralegals - that's nine people times 30 minute each) or 135 minutes of $600/hour plus 135 minutes of $250/hour time? That's $1425 v. $1912, and for less money you are sure everyone has the same information.

I think a good lead attorney can make a case for billing for effective meetings.

Can she make the case stick in today's economic environment? That's another story, of course, but it's certainly worth discussing and negotiating. Some clients recognize just how important good communication is to the outcome of a matter.

The key is to make the meetings effective. I have some tips on running effective meetings in my book Legal Project Management, and I've begun incorporating more content on this topic into some of my courses for those clients recognizing that the efficiency and productivity gains of Legal Project Management stem from a wide variety of sources.

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