Before continuing with the days work, I have been pondering the destruction spreading through the legal profession amid the application of fixed and budgeted costs.
As my colleague departs the office to do some DIY – painting at home, I thought more about how the legal profession are being stifled in their quest to do the best job possible in ever shortening time deadlines and suffocating reductions in costs.
In no other industry (that I am aware of) are professionals and tradesmen expected to continuously get their work done to an ever increasing high standard within shorter and shorter timescales – all at risk of potentially not being paid at all (reference: late filing of costs budget) and if paid, at substantially lower figure than represents their time, hard work and expertise – all founded through years of training and dedication to the profession (reference – budgeted costs).
As a consumer, I generally get (like many others) several quotations when needing work done and choose a mid-way figure quote, based on a feel too of how well the work will be done. If I am seeking for someone else to foot the bill at the end of the work, it would not be unreasonable for a professional third party to undertake a ‘detailed assessment’ of the work done and state what is reasonable for a consumer to pay (reference: old fashioned detailed assessment, which has always worked very well).
Imagine a scenario where a third party told the tradesman or professional what was reasonable for them to be paid at the outset – should a third party end up footing the bill.
Imagine that they encountered unforeseen snags whilst doing the work and could not get on with that work without first dealing with the snags – at the risk of not being paid or being paid substantially less than equates to the time expended.
Imagine them having to make an urgent application to increase the budget to a figure that would actually enable them to complete the work.
Imagine how stressful this must be when the other work that they are required to do piles up (as a result of having to deal with these unforeseen issues) and they are at risk of not being paid on a further matter as they have to get their budget in on that too.. and the next one…. and the next one….
Imagine their frustration at just wanting to get on with their job to the best of their ability, but not being able to do so and also having to explain matters to their very frustrated and stressed client (well court cases are generally stressful aren’t they) at the same time.
Imagine that in other cases (where a budget isn’t required), they can only get a fixed amount for doing work regardless of how long that work took.
Imagine how difficult that might be for a self-employed person to budget their day to day finances at home (especially if they have children to think of) when their time input bears no relation to the pay they receive.
Imagine staying up till 2 and 3am to get work done. Imagine missing family days at weekends to get work completed (and not getting paid at all – let alone overtime pay).
Imagine then worst of all, that having trained and worked hard for years, there simply is no way of remaining profitable and having to tell clients and employees that you are closing up shop.
If this applied across the board, what tragedy that would be and what a loss of fantastically skilled workmen and women in the workplace.
I am all for change, but only when change brings improvement and it is hard to see how fixed costs bring improvement or benefits, other than to the purses of the paying parties – and we know who they are in the main.
So yes, I agree with the analogy of Fixed and Budgeted costs & the North Korean missile. That would certainly bring change. Is that what we really wanted….