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Hours : Targets, Expectations and Consequences

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21 minutes ago, TheScientist101 said:

Just for my own curiosity,  with no billable target do the partners measure your performance by comparing your billables to your colleagues? For example - if all of the associates are billing 2000 hours and you're at 1800 do they call you in and ask you what's going on? 

I had heard through the grapevine that Davies Toronto does this - there is no billable target, but that actually results in more hours for associates to bill (compared to other Bay street firms) because they all have to "keep pace" with each other. Just wondering if it's the same type of system in US big law. 

 

Davies does do that.   Mind, it's easy for them to measure performance - if you're still in the office when the partners leave, you're fine. 

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6 hours ago, AtticusF said:

 

I think the takeaway from all these responses is that something like target hour expectations varies depending on where you work and what you do. It would be most useful for OP to hear from someone in a near identical situation to their own, unless he/she is interested in switching fields.

I'm actually interested in learning from anyone - the broader the better. Hours and expectations vary widely in work environment and practice areas, and I think that's valuable to have collected in a single place.

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I have a $$$ target to bill and that is a number based on salary.  Anything above that goes into a number cruncher and I get a percentage of based on my expenses and overall firm health.

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1 hour ago, Eeee said:

I don't see how this isn't fraud...

Partners at my old office used to bill 20 hour days with .1's.  

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3 hours ago, Lawl said:

This is true. I always bill way more on days when I'm only working on one or two things because I waste a lot of time transitioning between assignments (usually ahem...wasting time cleansing the legal palette between tasks).

However -- as a side observation -- (and I'm not at that point yet, but I notice it with some senior associates), you can still rack up a lot of billable time in one day doing a lot of .1 work because you're rounding up (at least, my firm rounds up). So say I send 3 emails on 3 files that combined take me 1 minute each. I've done 3 minutes of real time work, but I billed 0.3, which is 18 minutes. So the round up can add quite a bit to your total when there're enough items on that day's docket. 

Also, in litigation, you can rack up a fair amount of billable time on discoveries, which often do not involve that much work (though often they do!), but where the clock just runs until you're done, and that may include travel time and (sometimes multiple) breaks as well. Not to mention the client reporting letters, which are fairly mind-numbing to draft but which can also take a while.

Anyway, at my firm: downtown Toronto boutique litigation firm, 1600 billable target. There is no non-billable target. 

I am a litigator at a bay street firm. This post closely matches my experience.

I find all of the docketing really slows down any efficiency of doing lots of .1s

When I was starting I wrote down some of my own time (by not docketing excessive time) because I was taking a long time on certain tasks. Now that I have been out for a few years I am billing much closer to 1 hour worked = 1 hour billed because I am more efficient.

Our target is 1700. I understand that most of the non-litigators fall short of this, some substantially so, and still get by.

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3 hours ago, TheScientist101 said:

Just for my own curiosity,  with no billable target do the partners measure your performance by comparing your billables to your colleagues? For example - if all of the associates are billing 2000 hours and you're at 1800 do they call you in and ask you what's going on? 

I had heard through the grapevine that Davies Toronto does this - there is no billable target, but that actually results in more hours for associates to bill (compared to other Bay street firms) because they all have to "keep pace" with each other. Just wondering if it's the same type of system in US big law. 

 

I've never heard of anyone ending the year with a low amount of billables.  The firm keeps track of what you bill each month, and if you've had a slow month or two you usually get hit with some more work.  Some people will bill a lot more than others but I think that's more a function of differences in the files people worked on than a reflection of the quality of each associate.

My general sense is we end up working about the same hours as associate at firms with targets. 

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14 minutes ago, Jaggers said:

Tony Merchant once (in)famously billed 5300 hours in a year. Which is just over 14 a day if you average it out over 365 days, so totally doable.

Seems legit. 

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Posted (edited)
4 minutes ago, maximumbob said:

Seems legit. 

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/the-merchant-of-menace/article1091902/

And all of this, more impressively, is sustained over a workweek that is epic, even by the workaholic-friendly standards of the legal community. It's not atypical for the 63-year-old barrister to rise at 2 a.m. and be in the office two hours later. He claims to have billed a stunning 5,300 hours in 2005-yes, you read that correctly-in a profession where 2,000 hours is considered a punishing workload. That's 14 1/2 hours times 365 days of the year, which leaves just over nine hours in an average day to accomplish anything else in life that doesn't involve billing a client.

No wonder Merchant doesn't golf. Or eat breakfast. Or have lunch. Or drink fluids during the day. "Go ahead if you have to, but I don't eat," he tells me during a court-imposed lunch break in hearings in connection with a class action proceeding against pet food manufacturer Menu Foods. Then he finds himself a corner table in the lawyers' lounge at Vancouver's provincial courthouse, and spends the next hour highlighting documents, cellphone pasted to his ear, a trembling pinkie finger pressed to his temple. Which is right about the point I find myself recalling the film This Is Spinal Tap and thinking about how other high-powered lawyers might function their whole lives with the volume dial cranked to 10 and yet never touch this man. Because Tony Merchant goes up to 11.

And many in the legal community are frankly amazed that anyone could ever have billed 5,300 hours in a single year. A lawyer at one of the most respected class action firms in Canada, who reviews partner and associate billings as a member of its managing committee, responds to the question coldly: "If someone claimed they had billed that many hours at this firm, I would consider that person not to have written down their hours in the customary manner."

OMG.....

I wonder how many times he's been divorced?

 
Edited by providence
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NY M&A associate. We have no explicit target. I seem to end up between 180-220/month a lot of the time, but there are months as low as 140 and as high as 300+ when things get rough. I can’t remember the exact total the past few years but it’s around 23-2400. That doesn’t include PB work, which I think amounted to about 100 hours, though is looking to be lower this year.

I never think bout my billables. There’s work to do and the firm is busy - I’m never out looking for matters if I don’t want to be. There are people my year who work on different sorts of deals (mostly public M&A) and seem to bill a hearty amount in excess of me. The ‘specialist’ areas (IP, tax, real estate, to some degree finance) bill less. There are M&A people who are not as well relied on by seniors who are still employed by the firm but, by their own account, appear likely to bill a good 500 hours fewer than I will. Funny thing about law firms - if they’re too short-staffed to fire you, and you’re too unreliable to be...relied on, you’ll end up taking home the same salary while working fewer hours and having a better life.

Hours never come up in my annual review. Bonus is lock-step.

Hours, or what they reflect, will come up more explicitly as the conversation turns to long term future at the firm in 5th year. 

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Posted (edited)

I no longer practice so I can now work 9-5 most of the time. Back when I worked in a mid-size Bay Street firm my target was 1700. I worked in litigation and there were peaks and valleys. I generally worked 9-7. I was in weekends for a few hours fairly regularly. I don’t recall the details but in my couple years of practice I made target but the hours billed per month varied a bit. I was not on super large files so I often was doing smaller things. Rarely did I have a day where I could draft all day and I did not do days of document review (I did admin law and human rights—so no lengthy discovery work in most cases). I did one big hearing where I essentially worked 7am-2am for 14 days but otherwise i rarely worked super late. 

Articling was different but even then I only stayed up past 2am in the office once.

As a junior I should compensation was essentially lockstep the first couple years. The firm was shifting away from lockstep for associates but I think that was more for 3-6 year associates (in part to address retention of women).

 

Edited by Harkareferral

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I was junior corporate law associate  at a regional firm on east coast, now in-house.

My "target" was 1600 billed hours, but realistically it was 1800 hours if you wanted to be seen as partnership material or get a decent bonus. I believe hitting 1600 just prevented you from being fired. Hitting below that for a few years in a row would probably have lead to termination.

This wasn't including non-billable work, for which there was no target, but, again, you were expected to have some non-billables that contributed to the firm if you wanted to be considered partnership material.

Now my days are 8:30-6ish. No weekends, ever, and I actually go on vacations.

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As been said, each firm tends to treat billable targets differently. I worked at two mid-size firms in Vancouver doing mostly litigation. Both had billable targets of 1650 and wanted 200ish non-billable. At one it was an absolute necessity to meet or exceed your target whereas the other it was definitely a positive to meet it, but if you were in the ballpark you were ok for shorter terms. If you never came close that'd be a different story.

At the more 'strict' firm I missed a couple of months at the end of the year for a relatively serious medical issue and, needless to say, didn't hit my target for the year. Upon my return early in the new year, the partner I reported to genuinely thought he was being nice when he assured me not to worry about not meeting my target the previous year (suggesting that, indeed, it should have been a concern of mine that I didn't hit my target). During my time in the ER and recovering from multiple medical procedures, I can honestly say that meeting my billable hours target for that year was not one of my worries.

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My firm targets 1500-1700 hours, depending on hourly rate. 100 hours for business development and 100 hours for posting on ls.ca.

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On 4/30/2018 at 9:00 AM, conge said:

Depending on how efficient you get when your 8-6 day (e.g., can you bill 8/10 of those hours?), you may want to negotiate a target with a bonus structure/profit sharing structure...

Thanks for the tip! My plan right now is to perform well in my first year and then I plan on negotiating some additional performance incentives, such as a billable target and bonuses for exceeding that target etc. To be honest I like the idea of not having added pressure of billables during my first year of call.

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The nice thing about being a sole practitioner with a large poverty law practice is that I don't really have to think about this. In law school, I remember we had a practitioner speak to us about billing and the 6 minute increments and my eyes glazed over. I was convinced right then that that type of practice was not for me. I can't imagine spending time tracking the time I'm spending. The only time I do it is on Legal Aid files that pay by the hour and it is in 15 minute increments. 

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Posted (edited)
On 4/30/2018 at 11:33 AM, maximumbob said:

Davies does do that.   Mind, it's easy for them to measure performance - if you're still in the office when the partners leave, you're fine. 

This sounds easy until you realize the partners often stay long too - not at Davies, but was pretty stunned to see how late some pretty senior people stick around. 

Edit: might have misread the tone of your post. 

Edited by Ambit

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1 hour ago, Ambit said:

This sounds easy until you realize the partners often stay long too - not at Davies, but was pretty stunned to see how late some pretty senior people stick around. 

Edit: might have misread the tone of your post. 

The other thing that struck me during the recruit was how early some senior people get to the office. 

Granted, that’s kinda what it takes to get to “best in the field” level of seniority and experience, but still. I have a ton of respect for the senior officers in the military I know who are up at 05:00 and in the office by 07:00 everyday. 

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