One concern is the 1800 hour requirement. That's probably more than you think in a small firm (it's not that much in a big firm), but that depends on the nature of the litigation that you do. If you can work on one case for a whole day, multiple days, whatever, then you can really pile up some billables. If you're jumping around between files, going on the road to do depos, filing a one-off motion here or there, fielding phone calls from several clients every day, then 1800 hours can be a lot. A lot. I managed about 1200 my first year out of law school, 1600 my second, and that's roughly the pace I've kept since. Keep in mind this is BILLED hours, not billable. My hours actually go to the client, period. 1800 BILLED hours is more than 1800 billable hours. But between raising my rate to about double what it was then and developing a certain niche type practice where I'm a go-to guy (in our firm, area, region, state) in a few areas, I managed to pick up partner. I should bring in about $210k my first year as partner, which COL-adjusted translates to maybe $550k in NYC. I rarely work weekends, have minimal travel. So the money and lifestyle are there.
Just curious why you think it's different between small firm/big firm re: billable (as opposed to billed).
In a typical day, I might deal with 4 - 12 different client files, sometimes as many as 16 or so. I have multiple instances of billing .1 - .3 hours for a task. I write a number of smaller motions and attend and argue hearings in state court that sometimes take just a half hour or so. When you have such a staccato nature to a practice, it is less efficient.
Also, I travel on at least a weekly basis (although I'm home for dinner). As a partner in a small firm in a small town, I also deal with a lot more non-billable work. I sit on several boards, am involved in various professional organizations, and have certain firm management duties that are just the nature of the beast here. I also have some clients who don't pay their bills, and that comes off my revenue. (I suppose I should have said earlier that I need paid
hours instead of just billed
hours.) I do some pro bono work, especially for the boards I sit on, local nonprofits, etc., or for clients whom I like or for indigent clients, just because it's the right thing to do. I am called upon to be the guest speaker and to attend various community functions at all hours of all days. Add it all up and 1800 billed (paid) hours is quite a damn lot.