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The terms of trade of the traditional attorney-client relationship are in flux. In the context of a flat economy clients have taken the upper hand and they’re using their buoyant bargaining power with alacrity.

Clients now want more choice and flexibility and less of the old billable hour model.  And law firms are starting to responding to this demand by adapting and offering alternative fee arrangements. It’s a movement that we’re starting to see increasingly in both the UK and US.

To meet the new client needs a new breed of law firms has emerged. These are increasingly the new normal and are typified by the US Morningstar Law Group. Their corporate manifesto is in the name: a new dawn for legal services. Formed in 2012 they are a vibrant and dynamic full service-law firm made up of a host of former Big Law attorneys.

Their co-founder Kenneth Carroll recently explained to the Law Practice Magazine what it is they’re about and their new model for offering legal services.

Mr Carroll said that their goal is to bring top calibre legal advisors to clients and the market at an affordable price.

The Morningstar founders had recognised that Big Law’s habit of raising billing rates every year was making things increasingly difficult for clients. But by creating a new business model that avoided the costly internal structures of Big Law, Morningstar would be able to greatly reduce the costs that would be otherwise passed onto clients.

By removing the internal infrastructure and overhead costs Morningstar are be able to provide top quality service without the Big Law price tag.

Coupled to the Morningstar’s commitment to streamline internal structures is their drive to eliminate internal tensions by focusing more on a firm performance as opposed to individual attorney statistics.

By creating a more collegial culture and focusing on firm revenue their attorney’s will no longer have to live by the billable hour.

Kenneth Carroll explained that these business philosophies will allow them to use fixed fees and other alternative billing arrangements as opposed to carrying on with the old billable hour model.

For Mr Carroll the billable hour model had often created perverse incentives that caused lawyers to spend too much time trying to manipulate the system in order to enhance their statistics rather than focusing on practice building and delivering a quality service.

Mr Carroll and the rest of the team at Morningstar hope that by creating a less quota-focused and more collegial working environment that they will be able to foster real teamwork and real creative collaboration which will ultimately promote and enhance the interests of their clients.

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