I interrupt my four-part post on how a company can achieve higher quality legal services, that are faster, more accurate — and cheaper — by “disaggregating” business challenges that raise legal issues into tasks that (often) someone other than an attorney can do better than a lawyer (“Clients Need Legal Services But Not Necessarily Lawyers”).
I saw the following in this morning’s in-box:
“Want a Market-Sized Bonus? Better be Ready to Bill Your Butt Off at this Biglaw Firm”.
For avoidance of any doubt, this meant that a large and prominent law firm issued new, formal guidelines by which it will now require the lawyers they employ (associates) to charge a quota of specified hours in order to receive a particular bonus. I don’t know if this firm previously had such a quota — though they are common in the legal profession. My point here is simply that hourly billing quotas like these are very much a part of the landscape, and that they’re widely accepted among conventional law firms — and the in-house counsel who hire them.
Regarding this law firm and its employee-lawyers, the article included a chart with two axes.
The vertical axis denoted the “level” of the associate in question. “Level” was expressed in terms of years out of law school. Nothing about demonstrated skill or competence. Just: How long had it been since this employee-lawyer graduated with their J.D.?
The horizontal axis: Increasing dollars of bonus for “1,950 billable hours …”, “2,100 …”, “2,250 …”, and “2,400 …”
Raising the question — as use of the billable hour invariably does:
Was this hour billed for the client’s good? Or for the lawyer’s good?
I always do a double take at such a headline.