That’s the question posed in this very interesting article, by Leigh Jones for the National Law Journal. It begins:
In recent weeks, some midsize firms have implemented drastic reductions to their billable-hour requirements for first-year associates in order to enhance training and to appease clients who are increasingly resistant to paying for new lawyers’ starts and stumbles.
Such a strategy is something other law firms say they are contemplating and could represent the advent of a change in the industry that many contend is long overdue.
The piece is an excellent round-up of the new approaches being employed by midsize firms, as they try to deliver cost-effective legal representation while remaining attractive places to work for associates. The strategies include reducing billable hour requirements for first years to 1600 hours, to allow for more training; abandoning billable minimums for first-years altogether, previously discussed here; and greater use of two-track systems, in which associates can choose to work fewer hours for somewhat less money.
And there’s a shout-out to ATL (which we’re vain enough to speculate was linkbait for us — if so, it worked):
As law firms have become bigger, so have associate salaries. First-year compensation jumped to $160,000 from $145,000 in January at many of the largest law firms, and law firm leaders are watching to see if speculation about pending increases to $190,000 reported on the blog Above the Law prove true.
NY to 190? Stay tuned. You can check out the full article over here.
P.S. Jones’s NLJ piece does remind us a bit of this recent post, by Amir Efrati, from the WSJ Law Blog. But then again, Efrati’s widely read Wall Street Journal story reminded us of Leigh Jones’s earlier National Law Journal article.
Maybe every story about law-firm associate life has already been written before. Maybe Efrati and Jones should just keep rewriting each other’s articles — and then have them rewritten again by the Des Moines Register, just for good measure.
Midsize Law Firms Go for Big Changes [National Law Journal]
Tinkering with Billable-Hour Requirements [WSJ Law Blog]