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Billable Hours, How I loathe thee.

post #1 of 79
Thread Starter 
I wish I had know about this prior to law school.

Young associates have little control over their workload. Because partners are often too busy to delegate work, or maybe even because the work is a little slow, you may have ridiculously low hours one month. "Don't worry, it's not your fault" they tell you. But they don't tell you that they'll forever more pressure you into raising your average. And your average billable hours seems like the only number that counts, come bonus-time.

I don't think I'm cut out for this kind of work. There is no happy ending when it comes to billables, and at the end of the day, it's all that counts. Even though the workload in litigation is supposed to be cyclical, it is always stressful. Setting aside the work, which is insanely stressful in itself, you have to stress about making your hours. Work a lot of hours, you're unhappy because you have no free time. Even when you get some free time, you worry about your hours suffering. Sure, take your weekends, but forget about enjoying them. Same with vacations. Because that's time you could have billed. That's time you could have shown them that you're a superstar, that you're a billing machine on a mission to rack up numbers.

Give me a results oriented job. I can get the job done, and it will be done efficiently and effectively. How long does it take? I could care less, I will do the job. I will not rest until it is done. Afterall, I'm a hard working guy. But once my job is done for the day, I want to go home, and enjoy my free time guilt free. If there is nothing that needs to be done, I'll make myself available, but I'm going to surf the net all day, and clock out on time, and not worry about having to make up those hours the next day.

Anyway, rant over. Please call me a crybaby and order me to get back to work. Hours don't bill themselves.
post #2 of 79
The best way to get work is to turn in absolutely spectacular work even on minor, short projects. And never miss a deadline under any circumstances. If you go beyond what the partner/senior associate asks for, and give them what they really NEED but won't tell you explicitly when giving the original directions, then you will find yourself getting plenty of work. Plenty. More than enough to keep you busy. You'll be delegating work to others in no time.

As far as vacations and weekends, it is easy to keep billing even if you are out of the office thanks to modern technology. Make sure you have your Blackberry on 24-7 and check it regularly. Sometimes I find myself getting messages even though the damn thing didn't vibrate. Check it regularly. Take it with you on vacation - make sure to confirm that you get service where you're going - and do 3-4 hours in the morning and then maybe another hour or two before bed. Great way to relieve any stress you may be feeling about the number of hours you're billing.

Good luck and remember to have a little fun, too.
post #3 of 79
Switch to investment banking. You'll work just as hard, get paid more, and there's no billable hours bullshit. Many lawyers have made this transition.
post #4 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by darkoak
Switch to investment banking. You'll work just as hard, get paid more, and there's no billable hours bullshit. Many lawyers have made this transition.
Or don’t and leave us who are actually studying towards MBA’s with the I-Banking jobs. Jon.
post #5 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by darkoak
Switch to investment banking. You'll work just as hard, get paid more, and there's no billable hours bullshit. Many lawyers have made this transition.
How? How, damn it, how?

Seriously, if someone could say how...
post #6 of 79
Billable hours are, IMHO, the worst part of the private practice of law. Big firms in particular have either required or "suggested" billable goals for their associates. Failure to meet those goals can have a detrimental affect on your bonus, especially during bad economic times. The flip side is that you have clients (and some partners) who want you to keep your billables down to keep the bills down. Thus, you are stuck trying to get enough work to maintain your billables without "overbilling" any particular client. All of this leads to feelings of guilt and stress if you have a low billing day ("I'll have to make it up tomorrow") or if, heaven forbid, you actually leave the office before 7:00 pm on any given workday.

Have you thought about going in-house? Most in-house positions do not have a billable hours requirement. Also, I went from a BigLaw firm to a smaller firm and, while we do bill, there is no target number of hours. It's a much more relaxing environment (although I'll admit that, even at my current firm, if I could do away with billing my time, I would). I've gotten good bonuses during my time here, and not once has my billables been brought up as a factor. It's much more about the quality of my work on client management.

Also, just my personal take on billing while on vacation. Don't do it. Your job owns you for 50 (or more) weeks per year. You should be able to take at least one week a year for yourself without having to worry about the office. I don't own a blackberry and I never intend to get one. While on vacation, I will check my phone messages once a day and pass along anything important to the person who is covering in my absence (and I even resent having to do this). I put an "extended absence" message on my email. Although it may work for him, Patrick Bateman's suggestion of working 3-4 hours in the morning and another 1-2 in the evening while on vacation equates to anywhere from 4 to 6 hours of work each day. What's the point of going on vacation? I don't see how this is a good stress reliever and it's just not the way I want to spend my valuable and finite amount of free time.
post #7 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by JBZ
Have you thought about going in-house? Most in-house positions do not have a billable hours requirement. Also, I went from a BigLaw firm to a smaller firm and, while we do bill, there is no target number of hours. It's a much more relaxing environment (although I'll admit that, even at my current firm, if I could do away with billing my time, I would). I've gotten good bonuses during my time here, and not once has my billables been brought up as a factor. It's much more about the quality of my work on client management.

How big was the paycut in this move?
post #8 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Connemara
How big was the paycut in this move?

Without getting into numerical specifics, I will say that it was significant, but not life altering. My move was definitely a lifestyle choice. At the time, my wife was pregnant with our first son (we now have two boys). I see my children every morning before I go to work, every night before they go to bed, and on every weekend. My wife and I have a healthy relationship. This is what is important to me. If I had stayed at my old job, I probably wouldn't have seen my kids during the evening more than once or twice a week. I also probably wouldn't have seen them as much on the weekends. This is not what I wanted, no matter the salary.

There's no doubt that the money at the large firms is very good. In the end, it wasn't enough to keep me there. The people who rise up through the ranks at those firms to make partner and a really big salary work their behinds off. In that respect, they deserve what they get. In my opinion, they're welcome to it.

Without running off on a huge rant, I think that this country has developed an odd and somewhat unhealthy attitude toward work (at least in the white collar sector). In my opinion, your work should be an important part of your life and identity, but it shouldn't define you. Others obviously differ.
post #9 of 79
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JBZ
The flip side is that you have clients (and some partners) who want you to keep your billables down to keep the bills down. Thus, you are stuck trying to get enough work to maintain your billables without "overbilling" any particular client. All of this leads to feelings of guilt and stress if you have a low billing day ("I'll have to make it up tomorrow") or if, heaven forbid, you actually leave the office before 7:00 pm on any given workday.
I almost jumped up and down when I read this. YES!!!! Someone knows how I feel!
post #10 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Renault78law
...I want to go home, and enjoy my free time guilt free. If there is nothing that needs to be done, I'll make myself available, but I'm going to surf the net all day, and clock out on time, and not worry about having to make up those hours the next day.
I don't know of a job that offers this AND insanely great pay. You want the dime, you gotta do the time.
post #11 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by JBZ
I see my children every morning before I go to work, every night before they go to bed, and on every weekend. My wife and I have a healthy relationship. This is what is important to me.
JBZ, I think the world would be a much better place if more people exhibited this attitude and behavior. My hat's off to you sir. Congratulations for having the courage and discipline to do this.
post #12 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dakota rube
I don't know of a job that offers this AND insanely great pay. You want the dime, you gotta do the time.

Being born rich? Is that a job?
post #13 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by LA Guy
Being born rich? Is that a job?
Oddly enough, I was pondering a poll here to ask just that question. I wonder how many among us come "from money"? I know I do not.
post #14 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dakota rube
Oddly enough, I was pondering a poll here to ask just that question. I wonder how many among us come "from money"? I know I do not.

I come from 2 parents.

Jon.
post #15 of 79
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dakota rube
JBZ, I think the world would be a much better place if more people exhibited this attitude and behavior. My hat's off to you sir. Congratulations for having the courage and discipline to do this.

Dakota - thanks so much for the kind words. I really appreciate it. So many people (men especially) seem to define themselves through their jobs these days. As I said above, while I think work is important, other things should take precedence.

I also agree with your other statement above. You will find very few truly wealthy people in this world who didn't have to work incredibly hard to get that way (there are a few lucky folks like lottery winners, but for the most part you have to work hard to become rich). It's hard not to respect someone who works hard and then enjoys the fruits of his or her labor. However, you always end up sacrificing something. Some of the more successful partners in my old firm had gone through divorces. There is no doubt in my mind that the amount of time they spent at work contributed heavily to their unhappy married lives.
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