Recipe for Alternative Fee Arrangements

We’ll be hosting 15 friends and family for Easter Dinner so I’m deep in the throes of menu planning. Since we always serve lamb, much of the recipe exploration has focused on side dishes. This search led me to a traditional companion to roast lamb: ratatouille. For those of you who have never sampled this dish, it’s a wonderful vegetable stew that tastes of summer.  A less lyrical description would be a mess of chopped of vegetables with Mediterranean seasonings.

While some recipes call for dumping everything in the pot and letting it simmer, there are other cooks that believe that the order and manner in which you cook each component vegetable makes a huge difference in the taste.  I’m not here to give advice on  the best ratatouille recipe,  but I did want to point out an interesting recipe I found that could have useful applications for matter management and practice management. Cooking for Engineers provides a good basic ratatouille recipe, complete with pictures.  The best part for me, however, is at the bottom of the page, where they have presented a detailed time line of the steps you need to take to make this dish efficiently. Perhaps I’ve led a sheltered life, but I thought the chart was brilliant.  If you don’t need wordy descriptions of what you are making, this chart provides a quick and effective way of analyzing the ingredients, the method, the effort and the time required to make a decent ratatouille.

Now imagine what would happen if you had to make a chart like this for every stock offering, asset acquisition or trademark registration your law firm undertook.  Would you be able to identify the ingredients, the method, the effort and the time required to provide great client service?  If you can’t make this kind of chart (or a functional equivalent), you haven’t thought hard enough about how you practice law and you aren’t anywhere near the starting gate for making intelligent decisions with respect to alternative fee arrangements.  Without this kind of analysis, your client services are little more than an undifferentiated mess of chopped vegetables with local seasoning.  In these days of billing pressures, that’s just not good enough.  Clients need to know that you know exactly what you do, and how to do it most efficiently and effectively.

Having the right recipe matters a lot.  What’s yours?

[Photo Credit:  Merlene]

4 thoughts on “Recipe for Alternative Fee Arrangements

  1. This is a wonderful idea. I think a recipe is exactly what we should strive to produce when we deconstruct a specific legal product. The ingredients would include people (of particular seniorities, role and/or experience), materials in our KM systems, and all of the other “stuff” that varies from one engagement to the next. I guess the difference is that a recipe is typically written for a single cook, and therefore assumes that the steps can't be completed simultaneously. I wonder if cookbooks aimed at restaurant kitchens are designed differently, with the idea that functional teams are operating in unison to produce the dish.

    1. Thanks, Jeff. You've clearly never watched me cook! On a good day, I can bechopping one thing while I have something else simmering on the stove andsomething completely different whirring in the standing mixer. And, on dayswhen I have the assistance of a willing sous chef, it sometimes feels likewe can accomplish 10 times as much.All joking aside, perhaps we could view the relationship partner or projectmanager as the master chef leading a whole team of sous chefs (*e.g*., otherlawyers, paralegals and support staff) in the kitchen. The job of themaster chef would be to interpret the recipe and organize the sous chefs insuch a way that they can operate in parallel or sequentially mostefficiently. Ideally, each lawyer would learn how to manage teams like thisand each firm would have a repertoire of fantastic “recipes” that it couldexecute flawlessly on behalf of its clients.- Mary

  2. First I have to say this is a great post. As someone who's heavily involved in Project Management (through PM Hut and my job), I love how Project Management is gaining a lot of recognition among lawyers.

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