Goodbye, Billable Hour

Billable Hour

Chicago’s newest business law firm has taken the nearly unprecedented step of eliminating the billable hour completely.  The firm is Outside General Counsel of Chicago, LLC (OGC), and they are betting that their model of providing a fixed-fee, outsourced legal function will appeal to small and mid-sized businesses who are tired of unpredictable legal fees and inconsistent service.

OGC Managing Partner Lloyd Chatfield says that the firm’s clients love both the fixed-fee charges, as well as having a dedicated attorney who can handle roughly 90 percent of a company’s legal needs. 

Manage Your Legal Spend

“I haven’t filled out a timesheet in over 20 years,” Chatfield said. “Frankly, I never bought into the idea that my contribution should be valued solely on the amount of time it takes me to provide legal support for your business.“

Chatfield has been on both sides of tens of millions of dollars of legal bills, having spent more than a decade as a traditional in-house attorney.

“Billable hours do not correlate to value contributed,” Chatfield explained.  “When I was the client, I was frustrated that law firms were set up to sell billable hours, when what I wanted as a client was excellent legal support, fast service, and positive legal outcomes.”

Outside General Counsel is a team of seasoned business attorneys who collectively have nearly 200 years of in-house experience. It is that background that Chatfield believes makes OGC different.

“Folks who’ve been around great in-house attorneys know that they’re nothing like law firm attorneys.  When in-house you have to move fast, you have to manage risk and reward, and you have to consider your client’s bottom line to be your ultimate scorecard.”

Chatfield adds, “Many business owners do not have the budget or need for a full-time in-house lawyer. And, when they need to speak to a lawyer, they get charged in six-minute increments. This creates a purely transactional relationship between the client and lawyer. Under our model, the client gets full access to a seasoned business lawyer who becomes a de facto member of the client’s management team. The client benefits from this model in two important ways – they can control their legal spending while fulfilling the organization’s most essential legal needs.”

Value For Clients

If client feedback is any measure, OGC’s model does have a unique appeal.

“Having an outside GC has been a good fit for our start-up business,” explained Andrew M., the CEO of one of OGC’s existing clients.  “Until we get to a point where hiring a full-time General Counsel makes sense, having a dedicated and fractional GC is exactly the right balance we were looking for. In my experience, the more well-known law firms can’t compete with the turn-around time, accessibility, and practical legal support that we consistently get from Outside General Counsel.”

OGC’s website includes the Business Law Bootcamp, a free video series of practical legal tutorials on the legal matters OGC handles for its clients every day, ranging from non-compete agreements to commercial leases. For more information, please contact Lloyd Chatfield at

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