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Hours : Targets, Expectations and Consequences

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On 5/1/2018 at 6:25 AM, 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.

It is difficult to generalize about hours because if you read something like this, you might think: Oh, that is so insane, to work so many hours it must be do difficult, thus having many hours must be difficult.

Of course, working 7 days a week 16 hours a day is difficult, so getting 3000 billable hours is difficult.

But the opposite problem is just as big: not getting enough hours. It could be many different reasons. The main one would be that you are working for a group who is not busy. If the situation persist, you will eventually be bought out or let go.

It is probably more worrying to be in a group/firm where there is not enough work for you to make your hour target, even if you wanted to!

I met a lawyer in a US firm for networking, and two weeks later, he lost his job because his group was not busy enough.

Edited by chirico

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Not sure Tony Merchant's claims are the example of anything, frankly. In my view it's physically impossible to bill 5300 hours, especially for someone who has major marketing responsibilities as well. 

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This is alarming to read. My perspective - just finishing my articles at a very small firm (two lawyers, one of whom is part-time, 5 students/clerks/paralegals) in a smaller town on the edges of the GTA commuting belt.  I will be returning after my call, but the terms haven’t yet been set. We work roughly 7 hr days. People come in around 9, 9:30, and leave around 4:30 or 5. We almost never work weekends (I am this weekend because I have court on Monday, but that’s an unusual case.)

We do a fair amount of Family legal aid, and a lot of “door Law” - wills, residential real estate, small claims, larger litigation, divorce. And while nobody is buying yachts, we all have time to see our families and live life. 

I can’t imagine that I will have a billable target after my call - but then again, it will probably just be a percentage of whatever I bill myself, so there will be no base salary, and honestly unless I find myself representing someone with very deep pockets and an urge for litigation, I’ll probably end up somewhere around minimum wage, or slightly over.  Most of my current clients just can’t afford to pay huge hourly rates for lots of hours, and I do fixed price when I can.

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On 6/3/2018 at 8:30 AM, ShortShrift said:

This is alarming to read. My perspective - just finishing my articles at a very small firm (two lawyers, one of whom is part-time, 5 students/clerks/paralegals) in a smaller town on the edges of the GTA commuting belt.  I will be returning after my call, but the terms haven’t yet been set. We work roughly 7 hr days. People come in around 9, 9:30, and leave around 4:30 or 5. We almost never work weekends (I am this weekend because I have court on Monday, but that’s an unusual case.)

We do a fair amount of Family legal aid, and a lot of “door Law” - wills, residential real estate, small claims, larger litigation, divorce. And while nobody is buying yachts, we all have time to see our families and live life. 

I can’t imagine that I will have a billable target after my call - but then again, it will probably just be a percentage of whatever I bill myself, so there will be no base salary, and honestly unless I find myself representing someone with very deep pockets and an urge for litigation, I’ll probably end up somewhere around minimum wage, or slightly over.  Most of my current clients just can’t afford to pay huge hourly rates for lots of hours, and I do fixed price when I can.

are you complaining or happy about your situation?

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Hm. Half and half, I suppose. I love what I do, I love my firm, I love the town, and I am happy when I walk in in the morning. On the other hand, I am getting a lot of family pushback that I am severely underpaid and that if I wanted a minimum wage job, we could have managed it without 4 years and enormous investment. 

I don’t ask for Bay Street salaries and I don’t want Bay Street hours or stress, but there has to be a happy medium here. You have to be much richer than I am to treat practising law like a hobby.

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On 2018-06-10 at 10:20 AM, ShortShrift said:

Hm. Half and half, I suppose. I love what I do, I love my firm, I love the town, and I am happy when I walk in in the morning. On the other hand, I am getting a lot of family pushback that I am severely underpaid and that if I wanted a minimum wage job, we could have managed it without 4 years and enormous investment. 

I don’t ask for Bay Street salaries and I don’t want Bay Street hours or stress, but there has to be a happy medium here. You have to be much richer than I am to treat practising law like a hobby.

My firm is 3 lawyers, 3 admin. Also in a smaller town. So our experiences can be similar.

 I practice exclusively family and child protection. My practice is mainly legal aid, with a growing private practice (sliding scales). It certainly is possible to bill more than minimum wage rates. 

Don't only limit yourself to solicitor side work. One suggestion is to get yourself on the child protection panel. 

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I prefer barrister work, but most things settle, and the bulk of work is always solicitor side. It’s mainly working out a fair division of fees - which comes down to how much value I bring to the firm. If I am doing tasks within files that my principal could do herself and taking twice as long because of my inexperience, then maybe not so much. On the other hand if I am handed carriage of files and basically told “Here is a new client, they are your responsibility from the beginning, do all your docketing and billing and then at the end I will take a percentage of your fees to cover your use of the premises and your association with the firm name”, that’s different. 

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On 4/30/2018 at 10:21 AM, 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'm going to go out on a limb and guess you do insurance defense. Those client reporting letters are all to familiar to me and those are basically the same expectations 

 

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On 6/10/2018 at 10:20 PM, ShortShrift said:

Hm. Half and half, I suppose. I love what I do, I love my firm, I love the town, and I am happy when I walk in in the morning. On the other hand, I am getting a lot of family pushback that I am severely underpaid and that if I wanted a minimum wage job, we could have managed it without 4 years and enormous investment. 

I don’t ask for Bay Street salaries and I don’t want Bay Street hours or stress, but there has to be a happy medium here. You have to be much richer than I am to treat practising law like a hobby.

Bro the grass is always greener on the other side. That’s the nature of the legal profession - we’re basically selling our time. If we want $, then we “sell” as much our time as could, just bill the client the largest amount of legal fee as he could possibly afford without firing you. But if you want “ work life balance “ (assuming it exists) then you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. That’s the nature of the game (which fundamentally must be a problem). 

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On 6/17/2018 at 12:31 PM, artsydork said:

My firm is 3 lawyers, 3 admin. Also in a smaller town. So our experiences can be similar.

 I practice exclusively family and child protection. My practice is mainly legal aid, with a growing private practice (sliding scales). It certainly is possible to bill more than minimum wage rates. 

Don't only limit yourself to solicitor side work. One suggestion is to get yourself on the child protection panel. 

What would your advice be for early calls looking to practice in child protection, but with relatively little experience in the field? I suppose the question, more broadly, could be framed as "what's the recommended course of action for those who want to enter a new area, but who won't have senior counsel to supervise/who are knowledgeable?" 

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46 minutes ago, Phaedrus said:

What would your advice be for early calls looking to practice in child protection, but with relatively little experience in the field? I suppose the question, more broadly, could be framed as "what's the recommended course of action for those who want to enter a new area, but who won't have senior counsel to supervise/who are knowledgeable?" 

Look at the relevant legislation, watch the child protection CPDs that are put on, and try to find a lawyer that will let you observe for a bit (file review/client meetings and court). Pre-covid times, I would have suggested talk to the duty counsel office about shadowing on a child protection day.


The vast majority of the work is legal aid. You'll want to look at your district's requirements. I suspect you'll need a formal mentor. You can always reach out to the local family bar (you'll need to be on the family panel as well) and see if anyone practices child protection and would be willing to meet/chat.

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I was sent a document tonight at 9:30 that is going to our GC and asked to review it immediately so as to not hold things up. I know it's a pandemic and all, but I had a zoom social event planned! Luckily they had cancelled, so I didn't have to tell our GC to wait until tomorrow for my minor comments.

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On 5/11/2018 at 10:39 PM, 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. 

I had a senior partner (Bay Street firm) tell me that WFH has improved his family life because for the first time in his career he is having dinner with his family.

He's 57. 

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2 hours ago, evo2019 said:

I had a senior partner (Bay Street firm) tell me that WFH has improved his family life because for the first time in his career he is having dinner with his family.

He's 57. 

I can believe that. To be a partner at a big firm is by definition to prioritize work above all.

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8 hours ago, evo2019 said:

I had a senior partner (Bay Street firm) tell me that WFH has improved his family life because for the first time in his career he is having dinner with his family.

He's 57. 

That's likely an exaggeration. Now, if his family eats at 5:00, that may be true but that's unlikely. Also, he's 57 so his kids, if even still at home, are probably fine with eating dinner at 7 or 7:30. 

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9 minutes ago, erinl2 said:

That's likely an exaggeration. Now, if his family eats at 5:00, that may be true but that's unlikely. Also, he's 57 so his kids, if even still at home, are probably fine with eating dinner at 7 or 7:30. 

That or he rolls into the office closer to 10 than 9.

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