Holland & Knight made headlines for all but eliminating the billable hour for its lobbying clients in January 2012 in favor of the retainer. More than a year later, that all-in approach has been all but ignored by the larger law firm government-affairs practices in Washington, D.C.
Leaders at lobbying powerhouses Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Covington & Burling, and Hogan Lovells continue to view the billable hour as an important tool.
W. Michael House, director of Hogan's legislative group, said it would be "foolish" not to promote both billable hours and retainers for lobbying clients. "If you have a firm with a very large regulatory practice like we do, you have to offer both," he said.
Akin partner Smith Davis, a co-manager of the firm's policy and regulation practices, said that "for the most part, we bill any way the client wants to be billed." In practice, lobbyists at Akin, Covington, and Hogan said, at least half of their clients opt for retainers over billable hours.