What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
Anonymous User
Posts: 273145
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 13, 2011 7:59 pm

If you work 2000 billable hours a year, how many hours are you actually at the firm? How do you calculate billable hours when you are working at home? How about traveling for depositions, etc?

imchuckbass58
Posts: 1245
Joined: Mon Mar 16, 2009 3:24 pm

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby imchuckbass58 » Wed Jul 13, 2011 8:03 pm

Anonymous User wrote:If you work 2000 billable hours a year, how many hours are you actually at the firm? How do you calculate billable hours when you are working at home? How about traveling for depositions, etc?


It varies highly depending on what sort of work you're doing. If all you do is doc review or diligence, you can bill a very high proportion of your hours worked. If you're doing something that's heavily dependent on people getting comments to you, or coordinating with others, you may sit around a lot and not bill as high a proportion.

But, generally somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 is probably a good rule of thumb.

You calculate billable hours when working from home normally - just count them up. Travel time can usually be billed as well.

User avatar
thesealocust
Posts: 8442
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:50 pm

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby thesealocust » Wed Jul 13, 2011 8:06 pm

I'd venture to guess that as total billables goes up, so does efficiency. You aren't likely to have more meetings / downtime as work increases, so somebody billing 2,600 probably spends a higher %age of their time at the office billing than somebody who bills 1,800.

I'd say a 70-80% figure is probably right, but it will vary a lot. Just took a 2 hour lunch with the summer associates? There goes your billables efficiency for the day, etc.

User avatar
jawsthegreat
Posts: 792
Joined: Wed Dec 03, 2008 10:51 pm

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby jawsthegreat » Wed Jul 13, 2011 8:13 pm

thesealocust wrote:I'd venture to guess that as total billables goes up, so does efficiency. You aren't likely to have more meetings / downtime as work increases, so somebody billing 2,600 probably spends a higher %age of their time at the office billing than somebody who bills 1,800.

I'd say a 70-80% figure is probably right, but it will vary a lot. Just took a 2 hour lunch with the summer associates? There goes your billables efficiency for the day, etc.



At the firm I'm at now they can bill up to 100 hours a year for "recruiting purposes" that counts towards their overall total. So keep that in mind.

Aston2412
Posts: 466
Joined: Wed Apr 21, 2010 11:23 am

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby Aston2412 » Wed Jul 13, 2011 8:46 pm

jawsthegreat wrote:
thesealocust wrote:I'd venture to guess that as total billables goes up, so does efficiency. You aren't likely to have more meetings / downtime as work increases, so somebody billing 2,600 probably spends a higher %age of their time at the office billing than somebody who bills 1,800.

I'd say a 70-80% figure is probably right, but it will vary a lot. Just took a 2 hour lunch with the summer associates? There goes your billables efficiency for the day, etc.



At the firm I'm at now they can bill up to 100 hours a year for "recruiting purposes" that counts towards their overall total. So keep that in mind.


Yea but that's spread across the firm as a whole right?

Anonymous User
Posts: 273145
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 13, 2011 9:04 pm

Aston2412 wrote:
jawsthegreat wrote:
thesealocust wrote:I'd venture to guess that as total billables goes up, so does efficiency. You aren't likely to have more meetings / downtime as work increases, so somebody billing 2,600 probably spends a higher %age of their time at the office billing than somebody who bills 1,800.

I'd say a 70-80% figure is probably right, but it will vary a lot. Just took a 2 hour lunch with the summer associates? There goes your billables efficiency for the day, etc.



At the firm I'm at now they can bill up to 100 hours a year for "recruiting purposes" that counts towards their overall total. So keep that in mind.


Yea but that's spread across the firm as a whole right?


Definitely not. But, I should have said that it also includes writing articles, firm promotion, and other stuff like that.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273145
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 13, 2011 9:22 pm

It depends on many factors some of which you can control, others you cannot.

One factor is personality. Some people "feel bad" about billing time when they think they were not productive. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it happens A LOT. Some people think they took too much time to do something and cut down their own time (if you think I am crazy, wait until your first assignment as an SA). BTW this is STUPID. Always bill all of your time. If you are taking too long the partner can cut it down. Besides, most firms don't worry about your utilization until you're a few years out.


Or some people don't think they "should" bill for certain time so they don't. For example, I was on a deal with two attorneys and we were waiting for the other side to get information for us for hours and hours. It was really late at night and we were completely stuck just waiting for them. I am a summer, so I didn't know if I should bill (like I said this uncertainty/lack of confidence hits many people the second they walk in the door) and I asked. Atty A (the most senior of us three) said no since we were not really doing anything of value for the client. Atty B overheard and vehemently disagreed. B said that since s/he could not be productive for herself or do any other work, s/he was billing it. Argument ensued. When we asked the partner the next day. he got all red in the face and told A it was not her place to write down her time. If she didn't bill she was robbing him, the firm and herself. The day after that the summer class got a big lecture from the managing partner about cutting our own time and how we were new and they expect us to take forever and repeated the robbing line.

Also, some people don't bill for answering a quick phone call or email, but these things can add up (especially since the smallest increment is .1)

And then, of course, there are the watercooler jockies. Don't be one of those if you want to be efficient.

you can't control the amount of work and all that but you can try to be as efficient as possible and just go the frack home on days when you have no work (unless face-time is the key to getting work).

Anonymous User
Posts: 273145
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 14, 2011 7:56 am

Anonymous User wrote:It depends on many factors some of which you can control, others you cannot.

One factor is personality. Some people "feel bad" about billing time when they think they were not productive. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it happens A LOT. Some people think they took too much time to do something and cut down their own time (if you think I am crazy, wait until your first assignment as an SA). BTW this is STUPID. Always bill all of your time. If you are taking too long the partner can cut it down. Besides, most firms don't worry about your utilization until you're a few years out.


Or some people don't think they "should" bill for certain time so they don't. For example, I was on a deal with two attorneys and we were waiting for the other side to get information for us for hours and hours. It was really late at night and we were completely stuck just waiting for them. I am a summer, so I didn't know if I should bill (like I said this uncertainty/lack of confidence hits many people the second they walk in the door) and I asked. Atty A (the most senior of us three) said no since we were not really doing anything of value for the client. Atty B overheard and vehemently disagreed. B said that since s/he could not be productive for herself or do any other work, s/he was billing it. Argument ensued. When we asked the partner the next day. he got all red in the face and told A it was not her place to write down her time. If she didn't bill she was robbing him, the firm and herself. The day after that the summer class got a big lecture from the managing partner about cutting our own time and how we were new and they expect us to take forever and repeated the robbing line.

Also, some people don't bill for answering a quick phone call or email, but these things can add up (especially since the smallest increment is .1)

And then, of course, there are the watercooler jockies. Don't be one of those if you want to be efficient.

you can't control the amount of work and all that but you can try to be as efficient as possible and just go the frack home on days when you have no work (unless face-time is the key to getting work).



Totally spot on based on what I've heard from several attorneys at V10 firms. The one exception is that if they're working from home on the weekend or something, they will bill a bit less if they know they were taking time to talk to family, cook, etc. If they work a bit slower when they're at home, they try to bill at the same rate as if they were in the office since partners will look askance if you bill 8 hours from home to do something that normally takes you 4 hours in the office.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273145
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 14, 2011 10:23 am

I put in about 5 years at a V20 firm. My average annual yield varied from about 60% (first year when I was crazy inefficient) to 90+% (multiple years when I had several trials). A lot depends on what you are doing. If you're in the office doing various mundane tasks for 10 different cases/projects/deals, you're probably going to lose a good bit of time. If you're on a depo trip, between the travel and the prep and the depos themselves, you're probably billing close to 100%.

User avatar
RVP11
Posts: 2774
Joined: Tue Nov 06, 2007 6:32 pm

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby RVP11 » Thu Jul 14, 2011 10:47 am

I'm a summer associate and I probably average 10 hours at the office and 7 hours billed per day. Considering my lunches are almost always over 1 hour, I would guess that most real lawyers who are doing it right have no problem clearing 80%, even 90% billing efficiency. But a lot of people are not religious about tracking their time and end up underestimating when they go back to jot their time down.

alumniguy
Posts: 426
Joined: Fri Mar 18, 2011 3:24 pm

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby alumniguy » Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:04 am

Anonymous User wrote:It depends on many factors some of which you can control, others you cannot.

One factor is personality. Some people "feel bad" about billing time when they think they were not productive. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it happens A LOT. Some people think they took too much time to do something and cut down their own time (if you think I am crazy, wait until your first assignment as an SA). BTW this is STUPID. Always bill all of your time. If you are taking too long the partner can cut it down. Besides, most firms don't worry about your utilization until you're a few years out.


Or some people don't think they "should" bill for certain time so they don't. For example, I was on a deal with two attorneys and we were waiting for the other side to get information for us for hours and hours. It was really late at night and we were completely stuck just waiting for them. I am a summer, so I didn't know if I should bill (like I said this uncertainty/lack of confidence hits many people the second they walk in the door) and I asked. Atty A (the most senior of us three) said no since we were not really doing anything of value for the client. Atty B overheard and vehemently disagreed. B said that since s/he could not be productive for herself or do any other work, s/he was billing it. Argument ensued. When we asked the partner the next day. he got all red in the face and told A it was not her place to write down her time. If she didn't bill she was robbing him, the firm and herself. The day after that the summer class got a big lecture from the managing partner about cutting our own time and how we were new and they expect us to take forever and repeated the robbing line.

Also, some people don't bill for answering a quick phone call or email, but these things can add up (especially since the smallest increment is .1)

And then, of course, there are the watercooler jockies. Don't be one of those if you want to be efficient.

you can't control the amount of work and all that but you can try to be as efficient as possible and just go the frack home on days when you have no work (unless face-time is the key to getting work).


As a NYC biglaw associate, I agree with pretty much everything in this post. As part of my firm's 1st year associate training, there is a session on billing time where hypotheticals are presented and senior associates lead a discussion of *proper* billing practices. Generally, if you are there after *normal* working hours (6:30sih to 7:00ish) and you have no other matters to work on and are waiting for opposing counsel, that is billable time. Just like weekend travel time is generally billable time if you are required to go to the firm's offices.

My only additional comment on this thread is two fold: (i) generally, transactional associates are less *efficient* then litigation and (ii) my experiences with talking to friends who are associates at firms spread through the vault ranks, is that associates at higher ranked firms (the V10s/V20s) tend to be less efficient than at lower ranked firms. This is probably due to client sensitivity and types of deals. Curious to hear other's thoughts on this as well.

User avatar
englawyer
Posts: 1270
Joined: Wed Feb 14, 2007 10:57 pm

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby englawyer » Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:07 am

if you do billable activities while traveling (IE writing a brief on the airplane) you can actually double bill. so the ratio could go above 100% :P

alumniguy
Posts: 426
Joined: Fri Mar 18, 2011 3:24 pm

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby alumniguy » Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:16 am

englawyer wrote:if you do billable activities while traveling (IE writing a brief on the airplane) you can actually double bill. so the ratio could go above 100% :P


This is actually NOT allowed at my firm (and in my opinion is completely unethical). [Wasn't sure if this was a joke or not.]

User avatar
swc65
Posts: 1003
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2009 11:27 am

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby swc65 » Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:52 am

englawyer wrote:if you do billable activities while traveling (IE writing a brief on the airplane) you can actually double bill. so the ratio could go above 100% :P



Yeah if you want to cheat your client. You do NOT double bill your time while traveling.

bdubs
Posts: 3729
Joined: Sat Feb 06, 2010 2:23 pm

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby bdubs » Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:56 am

englawyer wrote:if you do billable activities while traveling (IE writing a brief on the airplane) you can actually double bill. so the ratio could go above 100% :P


This could only happen if you're working on a case and traveling for a completely separate case. I've heard of audits where clients caught this and were very unhappy. I think firms generally make it a policy not to do this.

User avatar
thesealocust
Posts: 8442
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:50 pm

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby thesealocust » Thu Jul 14, 2011 6:41 pm

englawyer wrote:if you do billable activities while traveling (IE writing a brief on the airplane) you can actually double bill. so the ratio could go above 100% :P


Others have mentioned it in more roundabout ways, but my firm has a written policy explicitly prohibiting this.

User avatar
englawyer
Posts: 1270
Joined: Wed Feb 14, 2007 10:57 pm

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby englawyer » Thu Jul 14, 2011 10:21 pm

haha my bad. didn't know it was against the rules. for the firms with policies against it, does that apply only to the same case? IE can you work on a different case and double bill that way?

User avatar
thesealocust
Posts: 8442
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:50 pm

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby thesealocust » Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:18 pm

englawyer wrote:haha my bad. didn't know it was against the rules. for the firms with policies against it, does that apply only to the same case? IE can you work on a different case and double bill that way?


What?

The policy is thus: If you are traveling for a client, or waiting on something after hours, you can usually bill that time even if you're literally asleep. But if instead of picking your nose / sleeping / sobbing quietly on the shoulder of the passenger next to you while questioning your life choices you instead write a memo for a separate client, you lose the ability to bill the first client for the mere act of traveling.

Example I: 7 hours of travel, 3 hours of depositions for client A. Result: 10 hours billed to client A.
Example II: 7 hours of travel, 3 hours of depositions for client A, and 2 hours writing a memo for client B while on the plane. Result: 8 hours billed to client A, 2 hours billed to client B.

schooner
Posts: 374
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 6:50 pm

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby schooner » Thu Jul 14, 2011 11:46 pm

...
Last edited by schooner on Sun May 03, 2015 12:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

Renzo
Posts: 4265
Joined: Tue Dec 02, 2008 3:23 am

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby Renzo » Fri Jul 15, 2011 1:10 am

alumniguy wrote:
englawyer wrote:if you do billable activities while traveling (IE writing a brief on the airplane) you can actually double bill. so the ratio could go above 100% :P


This is actually NOT allowed at my firm (and in my opinion is completely unethical). [Wasn't sure if this was a joke or not.]


And add to that specifically prohibited by the ethics rules, at least in New York, and probably everywhere.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273145
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Aug 18, 2011 11:05 am

Well then I'd just write the memo on the plane anyway, but bill it for a later time where I'm not doing anything (say, a saturday). --> Promotes inefficiency, but eh... works for me!

Anonymous User
Posts: 273145
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Aug 18, 2011 11:15 am

alumniguy wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:It depends on many factors some of which you can control, others you cannot.

One factor is personality. Some people "feel bad" about billing time when they think they were not productive. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it happens A LOT. Some people think they took too much time to do something and cut down their own time (if you think I am crazy, wait until your first assignment as an SA). BTW this is STUPID. Always bill all of your time. If you are taking too long the partner can cut it down. Besides, most firms don't worry about your utilization until you're a few years out.


Or some people don't think they "should" bill for certain time so they don't. For example, I was on a deal with two attorneys and we were waiting for the other side to get information for us for hours and hours. It was really late at night and we were completely stuck just waiting for them. I am a summer, so I didn't know if I should bill (like I said this uncertainty/lack of confidence hits many people the second they walk in the door) and I asked. Atty A (the most senior of us three) said no since we were not really doing anything of value for the client. Atty B overheard and vehemently disagreed. B said that since s/he could not be productive for herself or do any other work, s/he was billing it. Argument ensued. When we asked the partner the next day. he got all red in the face and told A it was not her place to write down her time. If she didn't bill she was robbing him, the firm and herself. The day after that the summer class got a big lecture from the managing partner about cutting our own time and how we were new and they expect us to take forever and repeated the robbing line.

Also, some people don't bill for answering a quick phone call or email, but these things can add up (especially since the smallest increment is .1)

And then, of course, there are the watercooler jockies. Don't be one of those if you want to be efficient.

you can't control the amount of work and all that but you can try to be as efficient as possible and just go the frack home on days when you have no work (unless face-time is the key to getting work).


As a NYC biglaw associate, I agree with pretty much everything in this post. As part of my firm's 1st year associate training, there is a session on billing time where hypotheticals are presented and senior associates lead a discussion of *proper* billing practices. Generally, if you are there after *normal* working hours (6:30sih to 7:00ish) and you have no other matters to work on and are waiting for opposing counsel, that is billable time. Just like weekend travel time is generally billable time if you are required to go to the firm's offices.

My only additional comment on this thread is two fold: (i) generally, transactional associates are less *efficient* then litigation and (ii) my experiences with talking to friends who are associates at firms spread through the vault ranks, is that associates at higher ranked firms (the V10s/V20s) tend to be less efficient than at lower ranked firms. This is probably due to client sensitivity and types of deals. Curious to hear other's thoughts on this as well.


Thanks for the info. Out of curiosity, how often are you in the office past 6:30 or 7:00? One or two days a week? Every day?

User avatar
ewdrrg
Posts: 15
Joined: Fri Jan 16, 2015 12:53 pm

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby ewdrrg » Mon Jul 11, 2016 3:54 am

Tag

Anonymous User
Posts: 273145
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jul 11, 2016 6:22 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Well then I'd just write the memo on the plane anyway, but bill it for a later time where I'm not doing anything (say, a saturday). --> Promotes inefficiency, but eh... works for me!


^so much this. how is this not TCR

dixiecupdrinking
Posts: 3139
Joined: Sun Oct 26, 2008 2:39 pm

Re: What is the ratio between total hours and billable hours?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Mon Jul 11, 2016 7:07 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Well then I'd just write the memo on the plane anyway, but bill it for a later time where I'm not doing anything (say, a saturday). --> Promotes inefficiency, but eh... works for me!


^so much this. how is this not TCR

Well, it's fraudulent.




Return to “Legal Employment”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.