Barely Hitting Hours and Partnership

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Barely Hitting Hours and Partnership

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Aug 25, 2020 3:33 pm

I am a midlevel (soon to be senior) associate in a major market. Each year I have hit my billable hours target but it has been a struggle to do so each year and I barely am over the minimum at the end.

I have good working relationships with almost all the partners in my group and have always gotten (with one exception) good reviews as well.

However, as I get more senior I worry more and more about my hours- in part due to the fact that a lot of money rides on hitting hours at the end of the year but also because of what it might signal about my longevity at the firm.

If an associate is barely hitting hours each year, is it safe to say that partnership and other advancement beyond associate is likely not on the table going forward?

Apologies if this is a dumb or overly simplistic questions, but has gotten me increasingly anxious.

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UnfrozenCaveman

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Re: Barely Hitting Hours and Partnership

Post by UnfrozenCaveman » Tue Aug 25, 2020 4:13 pm

Do you know how many hours your peers are billing? Is the target the expectation or the minimum for bonus?I'm not sure that the partnership race is necessarily to rack up hours.

wanderinglawyer

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Re: Barely Hitting Hours and Partnership

Post by wanderinglawyer » Tue Aug 25, 2020 5:02 pm

It is difficult to answer the question posed based on the information provided. The pure quantity of hours feels like a somewhat crude predictor of partnership at most firms (though it may be part of the equation at some firms and reflect other positive qualities about the associate). That being said, many firms of course want associates to believe that the quantity of hours matters a lot because the associate then becomes highly profitable. But I don't think that being a good associate billing machine necessarily translates into being seen as a valuable partner.

OP, I think there are some things you can do to get a better sense of where you stand and, if you want, to change your position with the runway you have left. First, take an honest look at why your hours hover around the minimum. Are you making it known you want work? Are you trying to track when new cases or matters come in and asking to work on them? Or are you just waiting for the call, if/when it comes? As noted previously, how do you compare to your peers in terms of hours? The best associates are often the busiest because everyone wants to work with them and they are getting the first bite at new work. If you are only "meeting expectations" when everyone else in your group is busy, that's not a great sign. But if you are about as busy as everyone else, then it may not be a big deal.

Second, if you actually want to be partner or otherwise be promoted, I would encourage you to take more ownership over making that happen. Have you made it known to anyone in your group that you want to be promoted in a few years? Since you say you have good relationships with your partners, you should start having conversations with them about what you want, the criteria for advancement at your firm, how they see you along those metrics, and what you need to do to shore up any deficiencies. You may need to be direct about asking them whether there is any reason they would not support you when you are up and what you can do to address that, as they will probably be wishy washy. The more you can learn about what is valued -- whether hours or other factors -- the more you can do to ensure you have all your ducks lined up to give yourself the strongest shot possible.

malibustacy

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Re: Barely Hitting Hours and Partnership

Post by malibustacy » Tue Aug 25, 2020 6:15 pm

You're not making partner

The Lsat Airbender

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Re: Barely Hitting Hours and Partnership

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Tue Aug 25, 2020 6:43 pm

UnfrozenCaveman wrote:
Tue Aug 25, 2020 4:13 pm
Do you know how many hours your peers are billing? Is the target the expectation or the minimum for bonus?I'm not sure that the partnership race is necessarily to rack up hours.
Agreed. If the "target" is 2200, and hitting it means you get a nice email from the managing partner or a set of steak knives, then consistently hitting it for 5 years is a pretty good performance that would seldom count against someone in partnership consideration. If we're talking about a minimum threshold for getting boneus, and it's 1600 hours, and you've been skipping on the surface of that pace like a stone, then watch out—you will sink eventually.

Whether you make partner is 1) tremendously more complicated and 2) firm-dependent. wanderinglawyer's advice is excellent.

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Anonymous User
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Re: Barely Hitting Hours and Partnership

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Aug 25, 2020 6:55 pm

Thanks all- OP here. My billable requirement (which is strangely described as both a target and a minimum) is 2000. My understanding is that a very large portion of my office and department does not hit the hours target (nearly half) and that the mean is actually somewhere around the target- is not slightly below. I’m usually just over.

I habe brought up partnership prospects in both of my last reviews and was told that I am doing well and am on track, but that those decisions were far enough away that it wasn’t time for more in-depth conversations around partnership. The basic message was keep doing what you’re doing but nothing more. I know there are a lot of factors that go into it.

Really my concern isn’t “whether I will make it” as that is too complicated, but rather if “the writing is on the wall” with these hours.

The Lsat Airbender

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Re: Barely Hitting Hours and Partnership

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Tue Aug 25, 2020 7:10 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Aug 25, 2020 6:55 pm
My understanding is that a very large portion of my office and department does not hit the hours target (nearly half) and that the mean is actually somewhere around the target- is not slightly below. I’m usually just over.
Then your hours, alone, are probably not a huge liability. If there are partners keeping lists of "slow" associates, you're not on them. Obviously, if you find a way to hit the afterburners over the next few years, that'd be great, but that has at least as much to do with subjective stuff (running deals/cases on your own, getting contact with more clients/partners, building niche experience) as it does with the actual number.

When the time comes, and the firm has to pick between 2000-hours Alice who has made the above substantive progress and 2400-hours Betty who just grinds a lot and has no friends, Alice is a viable candidate for equity partnership whereas Betty is going to get kept on as a super-senior or Counsel until her first heart attack. (The problem, of course, is that getting more of that progression usually involves doing more work overall.)

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