Writing off hours versus moving to non-billable dilemma

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Writing off hours versus moving to non-billable dilemma

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 01, 2016 11:30 pm

I started work at a large firm in a secondary market in September 2015. This year has been good, I've been exceeding billable hours and am on track to earn a bonus. This past week, I noticed my billable hours dropped by about 50 hours. After some investigation, I found my time on a deal that died in March was moved to non-billable, "business development" time, which I don't get credit for and comes directly out of my potential bonus. I think the partner just switched it because he gets dinged for writing off too much time.

Any advice on what I should do or how should I handle? It's been upsetting and feels dishonest to me.

FYI, the deal died pretty late in the game, i.e. near the close date after two months of diligence (not the firm's nor my fault, just the economics of the deal). The 50 hours will equate to about $3000 of my potential bonus.

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kalvano

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Re: Writing off hours versus moving to non-billable dilemma

Postby kalvano » Fri Dec 02, 2016 1:17 am

Not to sound defeatist, but what are you going to do? Without knowing the dynamics of your firm, it seems highly unlikely that a junior-ish associate wins in an argument like this with a partner. Perhaps there are factors that you aren't aware of that necessitated the write-down.

I would ask the partner what happened - don't bring up bonuses or lost pay, but instead just say you noticed a large chunk of hours were switched to admin time, and that seems pretty unusual. Did you did something wrong, or is something else going on? Couch it terms of "hey, if I did something wrong, let me know so I can avoid it in the future."

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Re: Writing off hours versus moving to non-billable dilemma

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Dec 05, 2016 7:37 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I started work at a large firm in a secondary market in September 2015. This year has been good, I've been exceeding billable hours and am on track to earn a bonus. This past week, I noticed my billable hours dropped by about 50 hours. After some investigation, I found my time on a deal that died in March was moved to non-billable, "business development" time, which I don't get credit for and comes directly out of my potential bonus. I think the partner just switched it because he gets dinged for writing off too much time.

Any advice on what I should do or how should I handle? It's been upsetting and feels dishonest to me.

FYI, the deal died pretty late in the game, i.e. near the close date after two months of diligence (not the firm's nor my fault, just the economics of the deal). The 50 hours will equate to about $3000 of my potential bonus.


Honestly, I would go to the partner and let him know about the bonus. Maybe he can put in a word with compensation and let them know to still give you the $3,000 since you did the work. Don't be afraid to stick up for yourself, three grand is a decent amount of money.

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ArtistOfManliness

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Re: Writing off hours versus moving to non-billable dilemma

Postby ArtistOfManliness » Mon Dec 05, 2016 7:51 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I started work at a large firm in a secondary market in September 2015. This year has been good, I've been exceeding billable hours and am on track to earn a bonus. This past week, I noticed my billable hours dropped by about 50 hours. After some investigation, I found my time on a deal that died in March was moved to non-billable, "business development" time, which I don't get credit for and comes directly out of my potential bonus. I think the partner just switched it because he gets dinged for writing off too much time.

Any advice on what I should do or how should I handle? It's been upsetting and feels dishonest to me.

FYI, the deal died pretty late in the game, i.e. near the close date after two months of diligence (not the firm's nor my fault, just the economics of the deal). The 50 hours will equate to about $3000 of my potential bonus.


Honestly, I would go to the partner and let him know about the bonus. Maybe he can put in a word with compensation and let them know to still give you the $3,000 since you did the work. Don't be afraid to stick up for yourself, three grand is a decent amount of money.


agree

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elendinel

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Re: Writing off hours versus moving to non-billable dilemma

Postby elendinel » Mon Dec 05, 2016 8:09 pm

If you have a good relationship with the partner:

Doesn't hurt to ask the partner why the money was moved, and to ask about how it may affect bonus (don't let on that you know for sure that you'll lose $3k; couch it as "I heard from someone else that when this happens the money comes out of the bonus; is this really true?"). Hopefully they'll put in a good word for you to ensure at least part of what you would lose in bonus $ will be recouped.

If you have a neutral or worse relationship with the partner:

Bring it up with a different partner or ask a senior associate with whom you have a better relationship, specifically about the bonus side of the issue (in a similar, anonymized way).

You can pretty much assume there's no way it'll be moved, but maybe someone will take pity on you and help you make sure you get that $3k. For that much money, I would ask.

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Pokemon

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Re: Writing off hours versus moving to non-billable dilemma

Postby Pokemon » Mon Dec 05, 2016 10:58 pm

If you make 180k in biglaw and still getting bonus, not really worth it in my mind. This is abit bizarre though cause partners should not be knocking your hours even if the deal does not finish. It is not like the firm is not aware that one particular deal went nowhere.

gregfootball2001

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Re: Writing off hours versus moving to non-billable dilemma

Postby gregfootball2001 » Tue Dec 06, 2016 11:16 am

You're in your stub year - so are you saying that almost your whole bonus will go away? If biglaw, I'm assuming 15k pro-rated. How will these 50 hours make you not get a bonus?

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Re: Writing off hours versus moving to non-billable dilemma

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 06, 2016 12:25 pm

OP here

Thanks for all of the replies. I'm finishing my first full year (been at the firm for about 15 months). My whole bonus does not go away, just a portion. I'll still receive close to $12k pre-tax without the 50 hours or so.

I don't have much of a relationship with the partner, so I went and asked a more junior partner I do have a relationship with. He was sympathetic and we worked out a plan where I would send the partner an email and ask about it. I did so, but basically got a curt response of "I'll look at it."

At this point, I really don't want to piss off a partner, but I can't shake the feeling that the partner's actions were somewhat dishonest. Not going to make a big deal out of it if I don't get it, but maybe its an impetus to start looking elsewhere... Still a bit young to lateral (imo), but we'll see.

dixiecupdrinking

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Re: Writing off hours versus moving to non-billable dilemma

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Tue Dec 06, 2016 2:26 pm

ArtistOfManliness wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I started work at a large firm in a secondary market in September 2015. This year has been good, I've been exceeding billable hours and am on track to earn a bonus. This past week, I noticed my billable hours dropped by about 50 hours. After some investigation, I found my time on a deal that died in March was moved to non-billable, "business development" time, which I don't get credit for and comes directly out of my potential bonus. I think the partner just switched it because he gets dinged for writing off too much time.

Any advice on what I should do or how should I handle? It's been upsetting and feels dishonest to me.

FYI, the deal died pretty late in the game, i.e. near the close date after two months of diligence (not the firm's nor my fault, just the economics of the deal). The 50 hours will equate to about $3000 of my potential bonus.


Honestly, I would go to the partner and let him know about the bonus. Maybe he can put in a word with compensation and let them know to still give you the $3,000 since you did the work. Don't be afraid to stick up for yourself, three grand is a decent amount of money.


agree

Thirded.

It's hard to believe sometimes but not all partners are aware (or conscious) of our compensation and pressure for hours requirements. I sincerely doubt the guy would intend to fuck you over like this. He probably didn't think twice about the consequences and it was just easier to move the time than to write it off. For all you know, he just had his secretary do it and it got handled wrong.

I would politely bring it up.

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BaiAilian2013

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Re: Writing off hours versus moving to non-billable dilemma

Postby BaiAilian2013 » Tue Dec 06, 2016 4:45 pm

The above is possible, but as a counterpoint, he may have intentionally done this for selfish reasons. Writing time off hurts him; knocking your hours down only hurts you. Even so, it is possible that he isn't supposed to do this. At my firm, partners may occasionally try to do this, but they can't actually put it through without the timekeeper's knowledge - accounting must notify you.



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