Saturday, April 3, 2010

Mensa kids on Provigil can get 'er done

The topic of this blog is healthcare transactions, having much to do with the way that incentives are organized in the healthcare industry. Attorneys get trained for years to criticize deals designed by other people, and healthcare at this point is running the gauntlet. But maybe the lawyers interpreting the new regulations should do a bit of navel-gazing themselves.

One of the chief concerns among would-be health system reformers is that the fee-for-service model creates perverse incentives. E.g., doctors get paid more when they do more, and more care tends on average to be worse care. The same concern applies in the legal setting. Lawyers looking at a deal who get compensated based on billable hours have an economic incentive to spend more time. The additional time spent can be helpful, or it can raise issues that are a harmful distraction from business fundamentals.

A refreshing approach is articulated at, where Shepherd Law Group CEO observes the following:

"While many lawyers claim they cannot offer fixed prices because they cannot figure out what a particular matter costs, lawyers do not need to know if they are making money on every particular matter. They simply need to know their law firm is keeping revenues above expenses and operating overall at a profitable level. Their focus should be on bringing in as many new matters as possible."

This approach gives up the kinds of metrics and controls that accountants would consider to be essential safeguards. "Bringing in as many new matters as possible" sounds like a recipe for a client service shortfall, but then again maybe Mensa kids on Provigil can get 'er done. Or in corporate-speak, maybe a professional services firm is unlike other kinds of businesses, because the professional has instincts for when value is being delivered and a capacity to develop relationships that are intrinsically valuable. Time will tell the fate of Shepherd Law Group and its ilk.

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