Nathan Koppel over at the WSJ has penned a first-rate article about hourly rates -- specifically those at or about $1,000. He describes lawyers' reluctance to go to four figures while noting those who've overcome the feeling. And he points to one of Blawgletter's partners, who told Mr. Koppel that he charges $1,100 an hour to discourage people from wanting to hire him on an hourly basis. (They want to anyway.)
Which fits with our views about the dinosaurian essence of the hourly fee. In litigation, we believe that charging by the hour encourages inefficiency, legitmizes a take-no-prisoners approach, delays case resolution, promotes obnoxious litigators instead of charming trial lawyers, and doesn't even reflect the value of the services. Plus it creates a conflict of interest between lawyer and client.
We don't suggest going back to the bad old days of legal bills that give a dollar amount and say "for services rendered" and nothing more. But we do have tools these days to tie compensation to actual value -- flat fees, bonuses for specific results, contingent fees, reverse-contingent fees, and many other variations. That way lies the future.