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The way some people tell it, law firms have begun to sound more like used-car companies, offering up deep discounts or alternative-fee arrangements.

Alternative fees, discounted billing rates and fixed-fees are becoming more and more rampant in the legal world, although it remains to be seen just how cost-effective those discounts are.

“It’s incredibly easy to get discounts,” said Jay Shepherd, founder of Boston-based Shepherd Law Group. Shepherd has famously shunned the billable-hour model, in favor of fixed-fee arrangements. “I’ve talked to many in-house counsels who say, ‘I just make a phone call, and I get a discount.’ Law firms are doing something that car companies did about a year ago, with the employee discount pricing. It becomes a frenzy of discounting.”

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