What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

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ali&ali
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What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby ali&ali » Mon Aug 22, 2011 6:51 pm

Alright, so as a law student trying to break into biglaw, I have heard the 2,000 hours bit is thrown around as obvious, but what does it really mean? Does it mean working about 12-hour days, 6 days a week? Do we really know what we're getting ourselves into?

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rayiner
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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby rayiner » Mon Aug 22, 2011 6:58 pm

You wish it was only 2000.

missinglink
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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby missinglink » Mon Aug 22, 2011 6:59 pm

I'm not sure what you're asking. I know law students are famously bad at math, but have you tried playing with a calculator?

Typically, too, you'll actually have to work more hours than you bill, especially as a junior.

missinglink
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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby missinglink » Mon Aug 22, 2011 6:59 pm

rayiner wrote:You wish it was only 2000.

:lol:

You'll be fired at 2000.

ali&ali
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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby ali&ali » Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:04 pm

I am asking exactly what the title of this thread asks...what does billing 2,000 mean? Would you normally bill 7 hours in a 10-hour workday? How does this add up in terms of how much time you're actually working each week? I know that lawyers work hard, I just want to know more specifically how things fall into place in lawyers' lives.

random5483
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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby random5483 » Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:06 pm

missinglink wrote:
rayiner wrote:You wish it was only 2000.

:lol:

You'll be fired at 2000.



He mentioned "bill 2000" hours. I doubt many firms will fire someone (everything else being good) for "billing" 2000 hours. Working 2000 hours though is a whole different story (that would be a nice 40 hour week with a 2 week vacation).

From what I have been told (talking to big law attorneys, career office, and TLS), 2000 billable hours will likely mean 3000+ actual hours (probably more for new attorneys). This can vary based on the type of work, traveling, etc.

Disclaimer: 2L.

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bandenjamin
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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby bandenjamin » Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:09 pm

random5483 wrote:
missinglink wrote:
rayiner wrote:You wish it was only 2000.

:lol:

You'll be fired at 2000.



He mentioned "bill 2000" hours. I doubt many firms will fire someone (everything else being good) for "billing" 2000 hours. Working 2000 hours though is a whole different story (that would be a nice 40 hour week with a 2 week vacation).

From what I have been told (talking to big law attorneys, career office, and TLS), 2000 billable hours will likely mean 3000+ actual hours (probably more for new attorneys). This can vary based on the type of work, traveling, etc.

Disclaimer: 2L.


So basically you can expect to average 62.5 hours per week - (3000/48 weeks) assuming 4 weeks of paid vacation time (seemed to be fairly common among top firms) Doesn't seem terrible to me.

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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby ToTransferOrNot » Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:18 pm

random5483 wrote:
missinglink wrote:
rayiner wrote:You wish it was only 2000.

:lol:

You'll be fired at 2000.



He mentioned "bill 2000" hours. I doubt many firms will fire someone (everything else being good) for "billing" 2000 hours. Working 2000 hours though is a whole different story (that would be a nice 40 hour week with a 2 week vacation).

From what I have been told (talking to big law attorneys, career office, and TLS), 2000 billable hours will likely mean 3000+ actual hours (probably more for new attorneys). This can vary based on the type of work, traveling, etc.

Disclaimer: 2L.


2100 billed is the soft minimum at a lot of firms, particularly in NYC.

am060459
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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby am060459 » Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:20 pm

random5483 wrote:
missinglink wrote:
rayiner wrote:You wish it was only 2000.

:lol:

You'll be fired at 2000.



He mentioned "bill 2000" hours. I doubt many firms will fire someone (everything else being good) for "billing" 2000 hours. Working 2000 hours though is a whole different story (that would be a nice 40 hour week with a 2 week vacation).

From what I have been told (talking to big law attorneys, career office, and TLS), 2000 billable hours will likely mean 3000+ actual hours (probably more for new attorneys). This can vary based on the type of work, traveling, etc.
Disclaimer: 2L.


my number is a little lower but working as a paralegal at a V5 on the corporate side i do talk to attorneys and secretaries about billing. for 1st years the number is more like 2500-2750 hours. of course this also varies but 3000 is a lot and i would either suspect the attorney is not efficient with his time (maybe the case for new associates) or the attorney is not working on many cases. both of which are a serious problem for his career.

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englawyer
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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby englawyer » Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:28 pm

i don't think many people take 4 weeks of vacation. think more like 2.

the ratio of billable/total time also varies by practice area. my impression is that for litigation you can do better than 66%.

Sup Kid
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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby Sup Kid » Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:31 pm

Ok, this has been discussed many times on TLS, but here's once more for newer members of the board.

If you talk to associates at biglaw firms, they'll tell you that it's not necessarily the amount of time that you're working that sucks, but rather the unpredictability of those hours. To bill 2000 hours, you basically need to bill 40 hours/week on average, and therefore work 55-60 on average. However, those averages rarely actually happen (similar how the average salary of law grads right out of school is $130k, but no one actually makes that amount). Some weeks you'll be working 80-90 hours (on a deal closing or trial) and billing almost all of it, while other weeks you'll be in the office 10am-5pm, and barely able to bill 20 hours for the week. It all depends on how busy your practice group is at any given time. Because associates don't bring in work, that is out of your control, and you are essentially at the mercy of the partners in your group. HTH.

Sup Kid
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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby Sup Kid » Mon Aug 22, 2011 7:33 pm

englawyer wrote:i don't think many people take 4 weeks of vacation. think more like 2.

Credited. Associates tend to take 2 weeks of vacation, and then use an occasional day here and there when they can (like a Friday during the summer if it's slow).

imchuckbass58
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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby imchuckbass58 » Mon Aug 22, 2011 8:07 pm

Two points here:

(1) People talk about billing 2000 hours as if it's hard, or as if it's a decision you make. Except in downturns, very few people need to make an effort to hit their hours. At my SA firm, nobody even thought twice about it. The reason is unless you want to get pushed out, you will do everything you're asked to do, unless you are totally, absolutely slammed and can legitimately say you have no time to do what the partner is asking you to do. Most associates at my firm hit 2200-2500 hours, not because they made a deliberate decision to bill that much, but because that's how much work there is, and by doing everything they were asked, that is how much they billed.

(2) Billing 2000 hours per year roughly means you will bill 170 hours per month, meaning you'll work something like 240 hours per month, or 60 hours per week. But it will never be 60 hours. For two weeks, it will be closer to 40, as you wait for the other side to turn documents, or when there are no deadlines coming up. For the other two weeks, it will be upwards of 80, as you scramble to meet deadlines on the two deals that heated up simultaneously. Similarly, when you are working 80 hours per week, it's not as if you can say "I will work 14 hours every weekday, then 10 hours on Saturday." You'll do the work based on the deadlines given to you by the partner/client. So that 80 hour week probably won't be steady work - it could very well mean working 20 hour days two days in a row, then having 10 or 11 hour days for the remainder of the week after you hit your big deadline.

You don't actually work a large amount of aggregate hours in law, at least as compared to other similar professions like consulting or banking. The problem is that work is very unpredictable (more so than consulting, probably similar to banking). It is not unusual to not know until 4pm whether you will be getting out at 5pm, or staying until 2am.
Last edited by imchuckbass58 on Mon Aug 22, 2011 8:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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nealric
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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby nealric » Mon Aug 22, 2011 8:09 pm

Biglaw associate here.

In my experience, billing ~165 a month (or about 2,000 a year) means working about 50 hours a week. However, this is not a steady 50 hours a week, but an average between busy weeks of 60+ and slow weeks of 40. My colleges in corporate tell me that it is even worse for them. They will have weeks of billing 10 hours and weeks of billing 100, and a lot of sitting in the office waiting for things to happen. Most biglaw associates will tell you that the hours themselves are not that bad, it's the variability that gets to you. There are exceptions. People who are billing 2500+ are working like dogs pretty consistently.

As to whether 2,000 hours is acceptable, it depends on the firm, the office location, and the practice area. You will be shown the door pretty quickly billing 2,000 at Cravath, but 2,000 would be considered a very solid performance at a lot of secondary market offices or in a practice area like trusts and estates.

The burden can also vary quite a bit based on what counts as "billable". My firm gives credit for working on things like firm publications and pro bono. Other firms may not.

Personally, I enjoy my firm and don't find the hours at all oppressive (even with the variability). However, associates have wildly different experiences. The only constant I've found is that people at higher vault ranked firms are much more likely to work sweatshop hours.

(2) Billing 2000 hours per year roughly means you will bill 170 hours per month, meaning you'll work something like 240 hours per month, or 60 hours per week


I suppose it depends on the practice area and the nature of the firm's work, but I find that as closer to a worst case scenario for billing efficiency.

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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby ToTransferOrNot » Mon Aug 22, 2011 8:18 pm

nealric wrote:Biglaw associate here.

In my experience, billing ~165 a month (or about 2,000 a year) means working about 50 hours a week. However, this is not a steady 50 hours a week, but an average between busy weeks of 60+ and slow weeks of 40. My colleges in corporate tell me that it is even worse for them. They will have weeks of billing 10 hours and weeks of billing 100, and a lot of sitting in the office waiting for things to happen. Most biglaw associates will tell you that the hours themselves are not that bad, it's the variability that gets to you. There are exceptions. People who are billing 2500+ are working like dogs pretty consistently.

As to whether 2,000 hours is acceptable, it depends on the firm, the office location, and the practice area. You will be shown the door pretty quickly billing 2,000 at Cravath, but 2,000 would be considered a very solid performance at a lot of secondary market offices or in a practice area like trusts and estates.

The burden can also vary quite a bit based on what counts as "billable". My firm gives credit for working on things like firm publications and pro bono. Other firms may not.

Personally, I enjoy my firm and don't find the hours at all oppressive (even with the variability). However, associates have wildly different experiences. The only constant I've found is that people at higher vault ranked firms are much more likely to work sweatshop hours.

(2) Billing 2000 hours per year roughly means you will bill 170 hours per month, meaning you'll work something like 240 hours per month, or 60 hours per week


I suppose it depends on the practice area and the nature of the firm's work, but I find that as closer to a worst case scenario for billing efficiency.


You're a tax guy, though. You have the swanky job w/r/t all of this.

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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby imchuckbass58 » Mon Aug 22, 2011 8:23 pm

nealric wrote:
(2) Billing 2000 hours per year roughly means you will bill 170 hours per month, meaning you'll work something like 240 hours per month, or 60 hours per week


I suppose it depends on the practice area and the nature of the firm's work, but I find that as closer to a worst case scenario for billing efficiency.


Yeah, I may just be inefficient. As a general thing though I think corporate is less efficient than litigation (and that's what I'm basing those numbers on).

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DoubleChecks
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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby DoubleChecks » Mon Aug 22, 2011 8:23 pm

imchuckbass58 wrote:Two points here:

(1) People talk about billing 2000 hours as if it's hard, or as if it's a decision you make. Except in downturns, very few people need to make an effort to hit their hours. At my SA firm, nobody even thought twice about it. The reason is unless you want to get pushed out, you will do everything you're asked to do, unless you are totally, absolutely slammed and can legitimately say you have no time to do what the partner is asking you to do. Most associates at my firm hit 2200-2500 hours, not because they made a deliberate decision to bill that much, but because that's how much work there is, and by doing everything they were asked, that is how much they billed.

(2) Billing 2000 hours per year roughly means you will bill 170 hours per month, meaning you'll work something like 240 hours per month, or 60 hours per week. But it will never be 60 hours. For two weeks, it will be closer to 40, as you wait for the other side to turn documents, or when there are no deadlines coming up. For the other two weeks, it will be upwards of 80, as you scramble to meet deadlines on the two deals that heated up simultaneously. Similarly, when you are working 80 hours per week, it's not as if you can say "I will work 14 hours every weekday, then 10 hours on Saturday." You'll do the work based on the deadlines given to you by the partner/client. So that 80 hour week probably won't be steady work - it could very well mean working 20 hour days two days in a row, then having 10 or 11 hour days for the remainder of the week after you hit your big deadline.

You don't actually work a large amount of aggregate hours in law, at least as compared to other similar professions like consulting or banking. The problem is that work is very unpredictable (more so than consulting, probably similar to banking). It is not unusual to not know until 4pm whether you will be getting out at 5pm, or staying until 2am.


+1, this is generally what i have seen and heard.

and w/r/t to nealric, yeah tax guys get the best hrs :P

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romothesavior
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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby romothesavior » Mon Aug 22, 2011 9:16 pm

nealric wrote:As to whether 2,000 hours is acceptable, it depends on the firm, the office location, and the practice area. You will be shown the door pretty quickly billing 2,000 at Cravath, but 2,000 would be considered a very solid performance at a lot of secondary market offices or in a practice area like trusts and estates.

I'd say this is true, based on what I have heard from attorneys in my secondary market. Most firms have minimums around 1800-1900, and most associates will put in between 2000-2200, and some real workaholics will do 2,400ish.

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smokyroom26
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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby smokyroom26 » Mon Aug 22, 2011 10:04 pm

Is anyone here from Yale? Earlier this year I saw an incredible document that broke down what it meant to bill Biglaw hours in a very understandable way. I don't have that doc anymore, and I can't find it on the web. I think it was from the Yale CSO.

EDIT: Found it! http://www.law.yale.edu/documents/pdf/CDO_Public/cdo-billable_hour.pdf

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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby UML » Mon Aug 22, 2011 10:34 pm

I worked for a lawyer who billed 2,000 hours as a young associate and made partner "on time" at a NLJ-250 firm. The requirement for associates was 1800, but if you didn't bill at least 2,000 you were dead weight. The target for all partners was 1800, but it was understood that young partners needed to bill 1900, which he did. He is now a senior partner and bills between 1600-1800, which is pretty standard at the firm. However, he says that less hours usually equals higher volatility. For instance, this February he billed an average of 4 hours per work day, five days per week. This wasn't because his department was in any sort of trouble, but because of the nature of the deals there are slow times and there are hectic times. Now, this month, the first through today, he has worked 7 days per week and is averaging about three hours of sleep per night. Even for him this is unusual, but my point is that billing 2,000 (or any number) of hours can mean a lot of different things, depending of course on the work that you are doing.

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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby imchuckbass58 » Mon Aug 22, 2011 10:56 pm

smokyroom26 wrote:Is anyone here from Yale? Earlier this year I saw an incredible document that broke down what it meant to bill Biglaw hours in a very understandable way. I don't have that doc anymore, and I can't find it on the web. I think it was from the Yale CSO.

EDIT: Found it! http://www.law.yale.edu/documents/pdf/CDO_Public/cdo-billable_hour.pdf


This is the type of thinking you want to go through, but some of the estimates/assumptions in that document are ridiculous. For instance:

(1) An hour for lunch

(2) 5 weeks off

(3) In the "overtime" scenario, inserting an extra two coffee breaks and an hour for dinner, when you're only staying two extra hours. In other words, you're staying two extra hours but only billing 30 minutes. If that were the case, I would just stay for an hour and not take breaks or eat dinner, then leave by 7.

The most unrealistic thing in this whole thing though is the assumption that you will always have an unlimited supply of work, and you can choose to pick it up and stop whenever you want. This will never happen. There will be stretches of time where you have nothing to do so you just sit surfing the internet (not billing) while you wait for work to come in. Similarly, you will have stretches where even if you want to leave at 6, you will not be able to because the client needs something tomorrow.

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nealric
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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby nealric » Mon Aug 22, 2011 11:02 pm



I think the Yale document doesn't really capture it.

#1: The hour for lunch is silly. When I am busy, it's run to the cafeteria and work through lunch. I might lose a .2 billable for doing that.
#2: I take breaks, but certainly not 30 minutes worth. More like two or three five min breaks.
#3: .5 every day for department meetings is absurd. The most meeting happy department at my firm does half hour meetings weekly. Mine doesn't do them at all. When I have CLE, it's almost always done as a lunch hour, so you won't take a dual hit from both lunch and CLE.
#4. .5 for "general correspondence" is also way on the high side. Most of my correspondence is directly related to what I am working on and part of billable time. Most of the non-work, non-billable correspondence can be fired off in 30 seconds. I read tax notes on the subway to work, so it doesn't take away from my work time.
#5. You might get three weeks vacation, but you won't take that much.

The real drag on your billables is the variability of the workflow- not little breaks.

and w/r/t to nealric, yeah tax guys get the best hrs


True, but I was trying to take the experiences of my fellow associates into account with my reply.

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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Mon Aug 22, 2011 11:09 pm

30 minutes of non-billable correspondence? 2.5 hours of non-billable correspondence per week? I truely don't even know what that could mean.

And the "vacation" gets eaten up by coming in at noon or leaving at 2 every now and then - and when you hit a lag in your work load, and when you do your "non-billable correspondence."

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smokyroom26
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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby smokyroom26 » Mon Aug 22, 2011 11:46 pm

It has problems, but is thought-provoking nonetheless.

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rayiner
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Re: What does it really mean to bill 2,000 hours?

Postby rayiner » Mon Aug 22, 2011 11:51 pm

The Yale thing is unrealistic. When you're busy (in Corp) you're billing nearly all your time. The inefficiency comes from when you have a lull in work but have to come in anyway.




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