Eat what you kill during COVID

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Eat what you kill during COVID

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jun 02, 2020 3:08 pm

Not sure if this only happens at an EWYK firm.

So, my firm is an EWYK firm. My firm also is a firm that allows people to look at other people’s hours. My hours have plummeted the last few months, like many others’.

Additionally, my firm implemented the 20% decrease in draws for partners and 15% salary cuts for associates.

I was perusing partner hours this week and saw that partners are billing more than they were before (and many associates are at like 50-70%). Some of the partners I work with are billing over 200 hours a month. These are partners I regularly work(ed) with. They throw me like an hour here and there now when I beg for work.

Has anyone else noticed this? Are partners just hogging all of their work so they can counterbalance pay for any potential back end loss at the end of the year?

It’s frustrating when I’m here doing less work while my partners are doing work partners generally wouldn’t be doing (I saw some of the narratives and the partners are doing work that used to go to me for a first pass).

At first it was fine, but now I’m getting concerned with my lack of hours.

ghostoftraynor

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Re: Eat what you kill during COVID

Post by ghostoftraynor » Tue Jun 02, 2020 3:19 pm

I think it is more likely they are just doing a lot of advisory work as clients call with a lot of questions, less that actually translates to work for juniors.

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Re: Eat what you kill during COVID

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jun 02, 2020 3:27 pm

ghostoftraynor wrote:
Tue Jun 02, 2020 3:19 pm
I think it is more likely they are just doing a lot of advisory work as clients call with a lot of questions, less that actually translates to work for juniors.
OP here. I’ve read the narratives for the hours and our invoices. It’s not high level advisory work. It’s work that we do on a regular basis. I understand that a portion of it will be advisory work, but I don’t think it’d be 200 hours of it. Also, these partners were billing around 100 hours pre-pandemic, with the rest of the work given to associates.

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Re: Eat what you kill during COVID

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jun 02, 2020 5:17 pm

I believe this has been happening at my firm too, although I don't have visibility into other people's hours. I think partners are billing more now because some clients are asking the firm to adhere to a strict budget on their matters, and therefore there isn't the budget to have an associate take a first pass, work on partner comments, etc. It's plausible that the overall bill would be lower if the partner completes the task alone. Of course, this is concerning for associates because they get less substantive experience.

kovdak02

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Re: Eat what you kill during COVID

Post by kovdak02 » Tue Jun 02, 2020 6:41 pm

It’s not unusual when things get slow for the effects to be more and more dramatic the more junior that you get. Partners, senior associates, and midlevels (in order) will keep just a little more work for themselves that they otherwise would filter down in a time of normal busy-ness. If I have 9 hours of work and a 3 hour research project pops up, I’ll try to push that down to a 2nd year. If I have 3 hours of work? I’ll probably do it myself.

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ghostoftraynor

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Re: Eat what you kill during COVID

Post by ghostoftraynor » Tue Jun 02, 2020 6:53 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Jun 02, 2020 3:27 pm
ghostoftraynor wrote:
Tue Jun 02, 2020 3:19 pm
I think it is more likely they are just doing a lot of advisory work as clients call with a lot of questions, less that actually translates to work for juniors.
OP here. I’ve read the narratives for the hours and our invoices. It’s not high level advisory work. It’s work that we do on a regular basis. I understand that a portion of it will be advisory work, but I don’t think it’d be 200 hours of it. Also, these partners were billing around 100 hours pre-pandemic, with the rest of the work given to associates.
Defer to you if that's what been happening. Just don't see the incentive from an EWYK perspective. The partners make money based on the clients they bring in (and inherit). If we are talking equity at least, I don't think anyone cares about their hours.

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Re: Eat what you kill during COVID

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Jun 02, 2020 7:53 pm

ghostoftraynor wrote:
Tue Jun 02, 2020 6:53 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Jun 02, 2020 3:27 pm
ghostoftraynor wrote:
Tue Jun 02, 2020 3:19 pm
I think it is more likely they are just doing a lot of advisory work as clients call with a lot of questions, less that actually translates to work for juniors.
OP here. I’ve read the narratives for the hours and our invoices. It’s not high level advisory work. It’s work that we do on a regular basis. I understand that a portion of it will be advisory work, but I don’t think it’d be 200 hours of it. Also, these partners were billing around 100 hours pre-pandemic, with the rest of the work given to associates.
Defer to you if that's what been happening. Just don't see the incentive from an EWYK perspective. The partners make money based on the clients they bring in (and inherit). If we are talking equity at least, I don't think anyone cares about their hours.
OP here. My firm only has one tier of partnership and we are more top-heavy than most firms (close to 1:1).

Edited to add:

I’m also not as a huge mega profitable firm, so I think it’s slightly different than a EWYK like Kirkland.

Anonymous User
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Re: Eat what you kill during COVID

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jun 03, 2020 9:41 am

ghostoftraynor wrote:
Tue Jun 02, 2020 6:53 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Jun 02, 2020 3:27 pm
ghostoftraynor wrote:
Tue Jun 02, 2020 3:19 pm
I think it is more likely they are just doing a lot of advisory work as clients call with a lot of questions, less that actually translates to work for juniors.
OP here. I’ve read the narratives for the hours and our invoices. It’s not high level advisory work. It’s work that we do on a regular basis. I understand that a portion of it will be advisory work, but I don’t think it’d be 200 hours of it. Also, these partners were billing around 100 hours pre-pandemic, with the rest of the work given to associates.
Defer to you if that's what been happening. Just don't see the incentive from an EWYK perspective. The partners make money based on the clients they bring in (and inherit). If we are talking equity at least, I don't think anyone cares about their hours.
Agreed. Unless you are looking at junior partners or partners who depend on remaining utilized (for example those who don't have business of their own), partners don't really have an incentive to hog work from associates.

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Re: Eat what you kill during COVID

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jun 03, 2020 9:48 am

Not at an EWYK firm, but traditional big law. Firm changed comp structure over the past few years for partners where they get penalized more if they bring in a lot of work but don't bill a ton (so you earn more if you bill a lot and do a lot of BD, whereas before you could bring in a lot of work to make up for your 700-1000 hours billed that year). As a result, especially with the market conditions, partners are billing a lot more time. One partner I work with is annualizing 2500, compared to their normal range of 1700-1900. I'm still annualizing 2200 hours, down from 2500 a few months ago, but with non-billable work I'm up around 2700 hours annualized for the year (lot of BD work during this time and doing bs work for partners to show "value"). Still, my monthly billings are trending down, now around 100-120/month.

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anonrecruiter

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Re: Eat what you kill during COVID

Post by anonrecruiter » Wed Jun 03, 2020 10:26 am

It's completely normal for partners to bill more and just lay off associates without business during recessions. When there's limited work to go around, people higher up the food chain are going to hoard whatever work they can get to maximize their earnings. Partners' salaries are generally dependent upon both how much business they bring in and how many hours they bill and there's usually an additional financial incentive for them to bill hours on their own clients' matters (as opposed to matters for clients other partners bring in).

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nealric

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Re: Eat what you kill during COVID

Post by nealric » Wed Jun 03, 2020 10:35 am

anonrecruiter wrote:
Wed Jun 03, 2020 10:26 am
It's completely normal for partners to bill more and just lay off associates without business during recessions. When there's limited work to go around, people higher up the food chain are going to hoard whatever work they can get to maximize their earnings. Partners' salaries are generally dependent upon both how much business they bring in and how many hours they bill and there's usually an additional financial incentive for them to bill hours on their own clients' matters (as opposed to matters for clients other partners bring in).
There's a limit in their ability to do that. Clients can and will refuse to pay when partners are doing tasks that are obviously associate work. Few clients will pay $1,500 an hour for doc review.

hdr

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Re: Eat what you kill during COVID

Post by hdr » Wed Jun 03, 2020 12:33 pm

nealric wrote:
Wed Jun 03, 2020 10:35 am
anonrecruiter wrote:
Wed Jun 03, 2020 10:26 am
It's completely normal for partners to bill more and just lay off associates without business during recessions. When there's limited work to go around, people higher up the food chain are going to hoard whatever work they can get to maximize their earnings. Partners' salaries are generally dependent upon both how much business they bring in and how many hours they bill and there's usually an additional financial incentive for them to bill hours on their own clients' matters (as opposed to matters for clients other partners bring in).
There's a limit in their ability to do that. Clients can and will refuse to pay when partners are doing tasks that are obviously associate work. Few clients will pay $1,500 an hour for doc review.
Not that hard to draft the billing narratives to disguise low-level work--especially for partners who may have more insight into what will cause a particular client to push back.

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Re: Eat what you kill during COVID

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jun 03, 2020 1:06 pm

I have the same impression that (non-equity) partners do more work that they would otherwise give to associates. For example, I have been asked to revise memos they drafted themselves instead of the other way round. I have not seen the partners' narratives though and I'm not at a (pure) EWYK firm.

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nealric

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Re: Eat what you kill during COVID

Post by nealric » Wed Jun 03, 2020 2:55 pm

hdr wrote:
Wed Jun 03, 2020 12:33 pm
nealric wrote:
Wed Jun 03, 2020 10:35 am
anonrecruiter wrote:
Wed Jun 03, 2020 10:26 am
It's completely normal for partners to bill more and just lay off associates without business during recessions. When there's limited work to go around, people higher up the food chain are going to hoard whatever work they can get to maximize their earnings. Partners' salaries are generally dependent upon both how much business they bring in and how many hours they bill and there's usually an additional financial incentive for them to bill hours on their own clients' matters (as opposed to matters for clients other partners bring in).
There's a limit in their ability to do that. Clients can and will refuse to pay when partners are doing tasks that are obviously associate work. Few clients will pay $1,500 an hour for doc review.
Not that hard to draft the billing narratives to disguise low-level work--especially for partners who may have more insight into what will cause a particular client to push back.
You may be able to hide some things, but any time I see a bill with a ton of partner hours, I'm going to ask questions. Especially now, clients are very cost sensitive, and partners doing associate work are going to result in surprisingly high bills that will raise flags in corporate legal departments. Sure, there are probably some clients who aren't cost sensitive at all or don't have proper review channels, but that's going to be a minority at most firms.

sms18

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Re: Eat what you kill during COVID

Post by sms18 » Wed Jun 03, 2020 6:07 pm

nealric wrote:
Wed Jun 03, 2020 2:55 pm
hdr wrote:
Wed Jun 03, 2020 12:33 pm
nealric wrote:
Wed Jun 03, 2020 10:35 am
anonrecruiter wrote:
Wed Jun 03, 2020 10:26 am
It's completely normal for partners to bill more and just lay off associates without business during recessions. When there's limited work to go around, people higher up the food chain are going to hoard whatever work they can get to maximize their earnings. Partners' salaries are generally dependent upon both how much business they bring in and how many hours they bill and there's usually an additional financial incentive for them to bill hours on their own clients' matters (as opposed to matters for clients other partners bring in).
There's a limit in their ability to do that. Clients can and will refuse to pay when partners are doing tasks that are obviously associate work. Few clients will pay $1,500 an hour for doc review.
Not that hard to draft the billing narratives to disguise low-level work--especially for partners who may have more insight into what will cause a particular client to push back.
You may be able to hide some things, but any time I see a bill with a ton of partner hours, I'm going to ask questions. Especially now, clients are very cost sensitive, and partners doing associate work are going to result in surprisingly high bills that will raise flags in corporate legal departments. Sure, there are probably some clients who aren't cost sensitive at all or don't have proper review channels, but that's going to be a minority at most firms.
I agree with this. At the end of the day, a client doesn't care about what the "narrative" says - it comes down to the actual amount of the attorney's bill and whether it's generally in line with what the law firm has been charging in prior transactions. A sudden increase in the amount of a bill relative to the prior bills from the firm will definitely be an issue, especially now when a lot of companies are short on cash. One possible reason for a partner to hoard work from associates, in addition to potentially compensation-related considerations, might be because it's easier for a partner to adjust the amount of time that he/she billed to a matter compared to writing off an associate's time (too much write-offs might raise associate efficiency issues and also make it seem as if the client is unwilling to pay the full bill).

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Re: Eat what you kill during COVID

Post by malibustacy » Wed Jun 03, 2020 11:17 pm

I think because of the nature of the current crisis, clients want to talk to and work directly with partners to navigate pressing issues. A lot of partners I know are on calls nearly all day. Clients don't want to hear from some associate during these times. They expect the fee earner to pick up the phone and come up with solutions.

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