Women and Billable hours

Want to be a law firm pricing director? Now, there’s an online class for that.

Two well-known consultants in the legal pricing space launched a set of online courses this week designed to bring law firms and clients beyond the simple arithmetic of the billable hour.

The Monday launch of the Legal Pricing Academy is another step forward in the professionalization of legal pricing roles, which have become popular only within the past decade. Last summer, a group created an accreditation standard for pricing professionals.

That accreditation, launched by the True Value Pricing Institute, had no set curriculum. But leaders of that group said the new, unaffiliated Legal Pricing Academy’s courses would count toward putting “ALPP,” as in Accredited Legal Pricing Professional, in your email signature. Nearly 60 professionals have attained that status so far, according to TVPI’s website.

“This is really about having more sophistication in our industry to make sure law firms and clients are on the same page and it is absolutely timely right now,” said Silvia Hodges Silverstein, executive director of the Buying Legal Council and co-founder of the Legal Pricing Academy.

To create the courses, Silverstein, who teaches law firm finance and management at Columbia Law School, teamed up with Richard Burcher, a U.K.-based pricing consultant. Burcher last summer launched an online pricing platform called the Virtual Pricing Director, which he has said is aimed at bringing the type of dynamic pricing that car-sharing service Uber is best known for. For legal work, that type of pricing would change depending on aspects such as the urgency or importance of the work to a client.

Those concepts are fairly nascent in the legal industry, and that is why Silverstein and Burcher think there is a market to teach them to employees—or lawyers—at law firms and in-house departments. Silverstein said educating purchasers of legal services on the economics of law firms will help move beyond pricing models that rely on the billable hour or discounts.

“The buyers need to understand how law firms make money so that they can understand what are the pain points for the law firm and where might they be able to compromise,” Silverstein said. “Because, contrary to how law firms often believe that procurement people just want to push and prod the law firms, they want to have good, strategic partners.”

The Legal Pricing Academy will offer three tiers of courses and certifications. The first, a Certified Legal Pricing Associate, is available now. Silverstein said it could take a couple of weeks to a couple of months to complete.

Steven Manton, director of pricing and matter management at McDermott Will & Emery and an advisory council member at the TVPI, said the institute welcomed the new training platform and would count the courses toward its ALPP accreditation.

“The more training that is offered to advance the profession the better,” Manton said in a statement. “The ALPP accreditation will be enhanced and elevated with this new content.”