Midwest - Billable Hours

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Midwest - Billable Hours

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 12, 2018 9:32 am

We're moving to the Midwest, MSP area from the coast, no real connections there to anyone in the legal market so hard to ask (spouse's family is from there). Not familiar with the area at all, and the answers I've gotten so far are pretty vague except that generally work life balance is better in Minnesota and everyone lives for the summers. Billable requirements on the websites for bigger law firms seems to mostly hover around 1850, which seems pretty low, but comp is so much lower too that I have to wonder is 1850 actually the target or are associates expected to do way higher? In which case... the comp. :shock: Not gunning for partnership, but would like to understand the real requirements beyond the posted hours and whether there are any customary differences.

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Lacepiece23

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Re: Midwest - Billable Hours

Postby Lacepiece23 » Thu Jul 12, 2018 11:52 am

Anonymous User wrote:We're moving to the Midwest, MSP area from the coast, no real connections there to anyone in the legal market so hard to ask (spouse's family is from there). Not familiar with the area at all, and the answers I've gotten so far are pretty vague except that generally work life balance is better in Minnesota and everyone lives for the summers. Billable requirements on the websites for bigger law firms seems to mostly hover around 1850, which seems pretty low, but comp is so much lower too that I have to wonder is 1850 actually the target or are associates expected to do way higher? In which case... the comp. :shock: Not gunning for partnership, but would like to understand the real requirements beyond the posted hours and whether there are any customary differences.


Depends on the firm. At my regional biglaw firm, the requirement is 2k and that is the expectation. More regional firms at the 1850 requirement expect that as well. The key difference is that at my regional biglaw firm, sometimes the work is not as abundant as say a biglaw firm on the coast. Our clients struggle paying our rates, and through no fault of the associates, you have a lot of slow periods followed by a lot of insane periods. The more regional firms in the area, not biglaw, have a much easier time finding work. Thus, your QOL could be way better with similar billable requirements.

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Re: Midwest - Billable Hours

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 15, 2018 4:12 pm

OP here - thank you for that insight regarding the instability of work. I think that's a very important factor I'll definitely weigh. Due to my spouse's job (and finally, no more damn loans) I'm able to be a little more flexible. I've read everywhere that you should NOT NOT NOT ask about billable hours in the job interview, but work life balance is something I'm most curious about job wise. Where we were before, we had none and it put quite a strain on our marriage. Spouse is in finance and hours there were pretty nuts too.

1800-1850 is not a concern for me compared to what I'm used to, but if it's code for "2200-2400+" again, at those comp levels, I'm just not interested. How do I find that out if I have no connections in the market that I can just ask off the record?

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Re: Midwest - Billable Hours

Postby Lacepiece23 » Sun Jul 15, 2018 5:19 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here - thank you for that insight regarding the instability of work. I think that's a very important factor I'll definitely weigh. Due to my spouse's job (and finally, no more damn loans) I'm able to be a little more flexible. I've read everywhere that you should NOT NOT NOT ask about billable hours in the job interview, but work life balance is something I'm most curious about job wise. Where we were before, we had none and it put quite a strain on our marriage. Spouse is in finance and hours there were pretty nuts too.

1800-1850 is not a concern for me compared to what I'm used to, but if it's code for "2200-2400+" again, at those comp levels, I'm just not interested. How do I find that out if I have no connections in the market that I can just ask off the record?


It’s pretty hard. You could try emailing an associate from your alma marta after you receive an offer. Honestly, a lot of the associates in my office billed that much. There weren’t many that billed more than 2400, however. A lot did it just because it was hard to have enough work to just bill 2k. There were just a lot more days where you wouldn’t have enough work, so they would just make sure that they always had to much work to hedge against these days.

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Re: Midwest - Billable Hours

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jul 15, 2018 6:02 pm

I worked for three years at the home office of a big law firm based in a non-Chicago midwestern city.

In my experience, the unfortunate reality is that the real billable expectation is FAR more dependent on your particular group than your city or your firm or what the firm’s stated minimum is. And even within your practice group, associate hours could vary a ton based on who gets put on projects that end up blowing up and taking a lot more time than others. In my practice group, if you billed ~1875 you were golden and they flat out told you they didn’t really want you billing much more than that and burning out. Some associates in other groups, however, billed wayyyy more than that, and the expectation was basically to do as much as they could throw at you, which could mean 2300-2400.

I will also say that while I never billed more than 1900, I was still stressed all the time for the opposite reason: I had big lulls frequently and felt like I was constantly hunting down work to try to hit the minimum; we just were almost never steadily busy as a group, which I imagine is different from a big market big firm. And while they didn’t care if you billed 1875, 1900 or 2000, they did take the minimum seriously, and if you didn’t hit it you got zero bonus and were essentially on probation the following year (happened to a guy in our practice group; every associate had to scratch and claw to hit hours, and he didn’t quite make it and was basically in trouble for it). This also meant, for example, if you planned a trip for the middle if the month and the group was slow in the weeks leading up to it and then picked up slightly you felt like you had to cancel or you were going to get too far behind to catch up (I did cancel a trip once three days prior for this exact reason).

Long story short, you’re simply not going to know what the billable situation would be like at a regional big law firm. Is it going to be fewer hours? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s still going to be stressful and you’re going to make wayyyyy less money. With the most recent raises and last year’s bonuses, the total comp at my former big law firm for my class year is literally more than 100k less than that of the all-in market level comp and the gap only gets wider with each class year.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Sun Jul 15, 2018 6:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Lacepiece23

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Re: Midwest - Billable Hours

Postby Lacepiece23 » Sun Jul 15, 2018 6:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I worked for three years at the home office of a big law firm based in a non-Chicago midwestern city.

In my experience, the unfortunate reality is that the real billable expectation is FAR more dependent on your particular group than your city or your firm or what the firm’s stated minimum is. And even within your practice group, associate hours could vary a ton based on who gets put on projects that end up blowing up and taking a lot more time than others. In my practice group, if you billed ~1875 you were golden and they flat out told you they didn’t really want you billing much more than that and burning out. Some associates in other groups, however, billed wayyyy more than that, and the expectation was basically to do as much as they could throw at your, which could mean 2300-2400.

I will also say that while I never billed more than 1900, I was still stressed all the time for the opposite reason: i had big lulls frequently and felt like I was constantly hunting down work to try to hit the minimum; we just were almost never steadily busy as a group, which I imagine is definitely different from a big market big firm. This meant, for example, if you planned a trip for the middle if the month and the group was slow in the weeks leading up to it and then picked up slightly you felt like you had to cancel or you were going to get too far behind to catch up (I did cancel a trip once three days prior for this exact reason).

Long story short, you’re simply not going to know what the billable situation would be like at a regional big law firm. Is it going to be fewer hours? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s still going to be stressful and you’re going to make wayyyyy less money. With the most recent raises and last year’s bonuses, the total comp at my former big law firm is literally more than 100k less than that of the all-in market level comp and the gap only gets wider with each class year.


This accurately describes my experience as well.



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