Click to search seven years’ of legal billing rates in the 2013 Going Rate database.

If you ask Toby Brown, it was only a matter of time before legal professionals dedicated to alternative fees and flexible pricing would form their own peer group. The director of strategic pricing and analytics at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld, Brown says that field is "really, really hot."

Client demands have forced the legal industry to re-evaluate its pricing structure in recent years. As a result, new positions have been created or modified in legal management to serve the client’s call to offer choices in billing.

Brown, along with three other colleagues, joined an existing peer group within the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) in 2011. By August 2012, their numbers had grown to nearly 90 members. "We started out with pricing and alternative fee arrangements [as the focus], but it quickly spread over into the legal project management space," says Brown.

Acknowledging ILTA was a good place to start. Brown says as the group took on members, the needs of the group evolved and it became apparent technology was not its core commonality. "We’re about the business of law," says Brown. "We started rethinking where we might have a home and we talked of different places in the market."

Brown reached out to his co-worker, Aleisha Gravit, chief marketing officer at Akin Gump and national president of the Legal Marketing Association. Brown and Gravit quickly agreed the two groups were a good fit.

In February, LMA announced to its members the formation of a Client Value Shared Interest Group (SIG) within the organization that will encompass pricing, legal project management and process improvement. LMA—a not-for-profit organization comprised of legal professionals in the areas of marketing, business development, client service and communications—has five other shared interest groups in its association.

"I don’t think our board has ever come together and been able to be so decisive and act so quickly as we did when we had the opportunity to be able to bring this group into our membership," says Gravit. "We really consider this to be a real game changer for our association."

The Client Value SIG will start with its existing 156 members, made up of pricing and project managers, chief financial officers, chief operating officers, executive directors, partners, consultants and representatives from in-house legal departments.

Brown says the group will have four main goals: professional development, establishment of a knowledge base including best practices, advocate for the creation of systems and services that meet the needs of its profession and develop pricing codes and terminology standards.

Gravit says this new group in LMA symbolizes a significant change in the legal business profession. "Our roles as business development professionals are evolving so quickly and many of us are involved in pricing conversations with clients," says Gravit. "These kinds of conversations are not just happening within financial departments at law firms … they’re also happening within the marketing and business development departments."

Gravit predicts the announcement of the Client Value group within LMA likely will cause its membership to double in the coming months.