Billable Hours

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Anonymous User
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Billable Hours

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Feb 16, 2011 8:41 pm

I see that most biglaw firms want/require around 2,000 billable hours each year. Divided by 250 days, which would be the number of weekdays minus approximately 10 vacation days a year, that comes out to 8 hours a day. Obviously, biglaw associates do not work only 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. So my question is, how many hours of work would translate into 2,000 billable hours a year?

Last semester, I did full-time work (could even be considered an internship of sorts) for a boutique firm in Atlanta as a "litigation professional", which is just a fancy term for a low-level paralegal. In an 8 hour day, I would usually log around 7-7.5 billable hours a day, sometimes as low as 6, sometimes as high as full 8. Going on that assumption, it would be pretty conceivable to log 2,000 billable hours working no more than 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. From what I have read/heard, this assumption would not hold true for biglaw associates, as it appears typical hours are 12-16 a day, usually 6 days a week.

So what type of schedule would translate into 2,000 billable hours per year? What about for 2,200 billable hours, which could bring in pretty decent bonuses?

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fatduck
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Re: Billable Hours

Postby fatduck » Wed Feb 16, 2011 8:47 pm

i asked my mom, she said roughly 2/3 hours billed.




probably varies by practice area, though. hers is transactional, fwiw.

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MrPapagiorgio
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Re: Billable Hours

Postby MrPapagiorgio » Wed Feb 16, 2011 8:49 pm

fatduck wrote:i asked my mom, she said roughly 2/3 hours billed.




probably varies by practice area, though. hers is transactional, fwiw.


Probably about right. Plus, no need to be anon with this.

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Pricer
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Re: Billable Hours

Postby Pricer » Wed Feb 16, 2011 9:49 pm

MrPapagiorgio wrote:
fatduck wrote:i asked my mom, she said roughly 2/3 hours billed.




probably varies by practice area, though. hers is transactional, fwiw.


Probably about right. Plus, no need to be anon with this.


Thanks for the replies.

I posted anonymously because I originally had a lot more details in the post describing my position last semester, but I took them out before submitting because they were pretty revealing and irrelevant.

edit: Just did the math. Five 12 hour days or six 10 hour days a week would not be that bad.

Renzo
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Re: Billable Hours

Postby Renzo » Wed Feb 16, 2011 10:46 pm

2/3 efficiency is probably about right. And you're right, working 3000 hrs a year is not that bad. The thing that really gets people is the lack of control over your schedule. You aren't going to pick working five 12 hour days or six 10 hour days a week. You're going to come in one day, sit around with no real billable work until right before you leave for a hot date, and a deal will drop, so you'll cancel your plans and in the office until 3am.

kujhawk24
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Re: Billable Hours

Postby kujhawk24 » Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:35 pm

Like someone mentioned earlier... varies WIDELY by your specific practice area as well as what type of worker you are. One of my buddies bills in HUGE blocks and it seems like his efficiency is damn near 95%. I just had lunch with him as he was finishing up his year(one of many two hour lunches)... He took off roughly 30 days, never left before sunrise and was always home well before sunset. He ended up billing well over 2000 hours. Reasonably, it can range anywhere between 60-90% efficiency. Even in transactional, it will vary this much.

Bottom line... if you are concerned about the work/life balance then do your homework and target firms that like to advertise a good work/life balance. Get insider opinions. From there it is a crap shoot. The fiance has a position with a V100 that markets itself as a strong work life balance but even then you will find just as many in the firm working occasional nights and weekends as you will the folks checking in at 8:30 and leaving at 6 who have never worked a weekend or week night in their life. You will still have to work a good amount of hours but 99% of the people who wanted to get to the top of any profession had to do the same.

A few things... You will take far more days off than you think... usually 20-25 per year (that includes holidays). You can just never take them in big blocks. Also, I built a firm over the last ten years in a somewhat related field and I work with a large amount of attorneys as well as have them as clients and friends. Whether it is at the club, gym, bar, etc. we talk about our own experiences quite a bit. 55-60 hours per week in your early career with numerous three and four day weekends is tolerable. Working more than that starts to burn most out fairly quick. You should also know that many attorneys have a small tendency to exaggerate the truth (impossible, I know). The few exaggerations you hear is usually the anecdotal evidence that sticks in your mind.

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Pricer
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Re: Billable Hours

Postby Pricer » Thu Feb 17, 2011 12:57 am

These replies are very helpful. Thanks.

sch6les
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Postby sch6les » Thu Feb 17, 2011 12:45 pm

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Last edited by sch6les on Tue May 01, 2012 6:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Renzo
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Re: Billable Hours

Postby Renzo » Thu Feb 17, 2011 1:37 pm

sch6les wrote:I think 2/3 is too low. Yale did a study in 2010 that said 3/4 will be billed.

http://www.law.yale.edu/documents/pdf/C ... e_hour.pdf

First, that wasn't a study, it was a hypothetical based entirely on conjecture, Second, it was purposefully optimistic; they were sort of doing a "best case" scenario.
These schedules do not account for any personal calls at work, training/observing, talking with coworkers, a longer lunch (to exercise or Christmas shop perhaps), a family funeral, any pro bono work (if not treated as billable hours), serving on a Bar committee, writing an article for the bar journal, or interviewing an applicant.


Not that 3/4 is crazy unreasonable for a focused lawyer who's a little more experienced, but it's slightly unreasonable to expect a new lawyer to be that efficient. Your going to lose more time to training, internal networking, etc. as a new lawyer.

Sup Kid
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Re: Billable Hours

Postby Sup Kid » Thu Feb 17, 2011 2:13 pm

Many firms allow training and OCI interviewing to be "billable" in the sense that they count towards bonus amounts. Obviously this changes based on the firm, but most have some policy of allowing these hours to count (especially for first and second years).

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Pricer
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Re: Billable Hours

Postby Pricer » Thu Feb 17, 2011 4:49 pm

Sup Kid wrote:Many firms allow training and OCI interviewing to be "billable" in the sense that they count towards bonus amounts. Obviously this changes based on the firm, but most have some policy of allowing these hours to count (especially for first and second years).


I've also noticed that most of the larger firms require a certain amount of pro bono work, but apply that to billable hours.

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Re: Billable Hours

Postby Renzo » Thu Feb 17, 2011 8:09 pm

Pricer wrote:
Sup Kid wrote:Many firms allow training and OCI interviewing to be "billable" in the sense that they count towards bonus amounts. Obviously this changes based on the firm, but most have some policy of allowing these hours to count (especially for first and second years).


I've also noticed that most of the larger firms require a certain amount of pro bono work, but apply that to billable hours.

Almost no firms require pro bono, but you're right that nearly all of them allow some pro bono hours to count as billables. But make no mistake, no matter how many trainings you go to, and how much pro bono you take on, someone is still paying attention to how much paying work you're doing.

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nealric
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Re: Billable Hours

Postby nealric » Thu Feb 17, 2011 11:15 pm

It can vary quite a bit.

There are days when I have billed almost every minute I've been at work. There are other days where it's been closer to 2/3. It can also vary based on department and what you are working on. It's pretty easy to bill 10/11 hours if they give you a big doc review or diligence project.

Black-Blue
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Re: Billable Hours

Postby Black-Blue » Thu Feb 17, 2011 11:58 pm

That yale study says "You have “worked” 60 hours but have billed only 42."

So that is about half way between 2/3 and 3/4.

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nealric
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Re: Billable Hours

Postby nealric » Fri Feb 18, 2011 12:44 am

RE the Yale study:

You have to keep in mind that a partner will usually be much less efficient than an associate. Partners have to do a lot more business development or firm admin stuff that isn't billable. Not sure if the Yale report factored that in.

Also, some firms will count associate training and pro bono towards your billables, whole some will not. Being allowed to count training towards your billables makes a huge difference.

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Re: Billable Hours

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Feb 20, 2011 8:56 pm

nealric wrote:You have to keep in mind that a partner will usually be much less efficient than an associate. Partners have to do a lot more business development or firm admin stuff that isn't billable.


But then partners generally don't have to abide by billable-hour requirements.

Associate here. How much is billed and how much time is lost varies widely from day to day, person to person, group to group. Some days are filled with meetings, which are 100% billable; some days involve a lot of waiting around (waiting for someone to get a document back to you so you can review it, waiting for someone to tell you what to do, etc.), which is 0% billable. On unlucky days you might get into the office at 9 with nothing to do, until at 4 pm the work coordinator calls to give you work, keeping you in the office until midnight: now you've been in the office for 15 hours and billed at most 8. (This is not uncommon.) On a doc review or due diligence day you might be in the office from 9 to 8, billing 8 or 9 of those hours, spending a half hour on lunch and another half hour on coffee breaks, bathroom breaks, etc., and depending on how much time pressure there is behind the doc review, you may spend another hour or two chatting with your office mate, because few people can look at documents for 10 hours straight.

How it shakes out varies widely. Some months you happen to be staffed very efficiently and some months you are staffed on matters that leave a lot of 'holes' in your day. And as a consequence, some months you end up billing 80% of your time and other months only 60%.

How efficient staffing is also depends on the group (the nature of the work, the number of people available, the efficiency of the staffing partner or coordinator), the economy (i.e., the volume of work to go around), and the types of matters that happen to be available at a given time. Sometimes there is more work than the group can handle, and everyone automatically becomes more efficient just to get it done. Sometimes there is not enough work to keep everyone busy, and inevitably there will be people sitting around waiting for instructions for some parts of the week.

Some people are naturally chatty, and prefer to cheer up their days by talking to people, even if it will keep them in their office a little longer. They will on average bill a lower proportion of their hours. Other people come in in the morning and leave at night, not talking to anyone unless absolutely necessary. They will bill a relatively higher proportion of their hours.

In short: it depends.

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underdawg
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Re: Billable Hours

Postby underdawg » Mon Feb 21, 2011 1:31 am

what do you do in the office if you have nothing to do from 9-4? do you have to look busy?

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Re: Billable Hours

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Feb 21, 2011 9:13 am

underdawg wrote:what do you do in the office if you have nothing to do from 9-4? do you have to look busy?


I don't think so, but other people may have a different opinion. The first time this happened to me, more experienced associates told me to enjoy it, go to the gym, get a haircut, get my shopping done, etc. I always feel bad leaving the office when this happens just in case work comes in, so I usually stay at my desk, but if I know that at some point I'll be working long hours again, I don't feel bad just reading a book or online newspapers.

But I think this kind of thing depends on the firm. At some firms it's perfectly OK to leave if you have nothing to do. And at firms with an open-market assigning system I'd imagine when you have nothing to do you'd be out scouting for work.

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nealric
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Re: Billable Hours

Postby nealric » Mon Feb 21, 2011 11:42 am


But then partners generally don't have to abide by billable-hour requirements.


They do and they don't. Some firms will still consider hours in determining partner compensation. But they generally are not billing the same number of hours.

So what type of schedule would translate into 2,000 billable hours per year? What about for 2,200 billable hours, which could bring in pretty decent bonuses?


A lot of firms give you the same bonus whether you billed 1800 or 3000 hours. It's hard to give an exact schedule because most biglaw associates can't keep an even schedule. However, 2000 billables is about 55 hours a week.

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Sauer Grapes
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Re: Billable Hours

Postby Sauer Grapes » Mon Feb 21, 2011 1:05 pm

Pricer wrote:
MrPapagiorgio wrote:
fatduck wrote:i asked my mom, she said roughly 2/3 hours billed.




probably varies by practice area, though. hers is transactional, fwiw.


Probably about right. Plus, no need to be anon with this.




edit: Just did the math. Five 12 hour days or six 10 hour days a week would not be that bad.

Do you have WE? Six 10 hours days consistently, year after year, will be THAT bad. Unless you've worked full-time, I don't think you realize the time commitment of such a schedule.

bigben
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Re: Billable Hours

Postby bigben » Mon Feb 21, 2011 1:13 pm

Renzo wrote:2/3 efficiency is probably about right. And you're right, working 3000 hrs a year is not that bad. The thing that really gets people is the lack of control over your schedule. You aren't going to pick working five 12 hour days or six 10 hour days a week. You're going to come in one day, sit around with no real billable work until right before you leave for a hot date, and a deal will drop, so you'll cancel your plans and in the office until 3am.

Correct.

bigben
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Re: Billable Hours

Postby bigben » Mon Feb 21, 2011 1:16 pm

sch6les wrote:I think 2/3 is too low. Yale did a study in 2010 that said 3/4 will be billed.

http://www.law.yale.edu/documents/pdf/C ... e_hour.pdf

I remember this. It is just a bunch of made up stuff. Pretty funny.

DaHam
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Re: Billable Hours

Postby DaHam » Mon Feb 21, 2011 2:31 pm

I think folks are seriously underestimating the effect that not having work plays. If junior associates aren't making their hours, it's HIGHLY unlikely that it's solely due to them being inefficient billers. It's much more likely that they just don't have enough work. It's pretty easy to be efficient if you have things you need to do.

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underdawg
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Re: Billable Hours

Postby underdawg » Tue Feb 22, 2011 12:42 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
underdawg wrote:what do you do in the office if you have nothing to do from 9-4? do you have to look busy?


I don't think so, but other people may have a different opinion. The first time this happened to me, more experienced associates told me to enjoy it, go to the gym, get a haircut, get my shopping done, etc. I always feel bad leaving the office when this happens just in case work comes in, so I usually stay at my desk, but if I know that at some point I'll be working long hours again, I don't feel bad just reading a book or online newspapers.

But I think this kind of thing depends on the firm. At some firms it's perfectly OK to leave if you have nothing to do. And at firms with an open-market assigning system I'd imagine when you have nothing to do you'd be out scouting for work.

yeah true you have blackberries for a reason




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