As many of you know, part of the problem firms are facing during these challenging times is that clients won’t pay their bills. Lawyers can’t get paid unless clients pay.
Whether or not clients are willing or able to pay, it certainly won’t happen unless they are billed. Hence, as most associates already know, the days of delinquent time entry are at an end.
But Fried Frank is taking it to a whole new level. Instead of making sure your time is up to date every month or every couple of weeks, Fried Frank wants attorneys to accurately close out their time every single day. This is from a firm-wide memo that went out last week:
The importance of accurately billing and recording time – both from an economic and an ethical standpoint – cannot be overemphasized. Accuracy is essential both for the Firm and its clients. To ensure accuracy, it is Firm policy that attorney time must be entered and released on a daily basis. This memorandum covers the Firm’s current client billing policies and guidelines.
Most of Fried Frank’s billing policy is pretty standard and common sense stuff (you can download the full policy after the jump). But there are some significant changes.
Entering your time every day makes business sense. Here is the relevant change as it was explained to Fried Frank attorneys:
All time must be entered and released on a daily basis.
A minimum of 7 hours will now need to be recorded in order to close out each work day in Carpe Diem. Attorneys should record non-billable and pro bono time. If an attorney does not have 7 hours of billable, non-billable, or pro bono time because he/she is unassigned or staffed on a matter, but waiting for work, he/she should record the time to 9999.1000 Unassigned/Waiting for Work.
Failure to adhere to the daily time recording policy will have a material impact on an associate’s performance review and potential bonus.
In good times, reminding people to enter “waiting for work” everyday allows the firm to allocate resources efficiently. In bad times … well, a tipster points out:
They are forcing me to admit to the very offense that will get me fired. I plead the Fifth.
Fried Frank has already been through a round of performance review layoffs.
Aside form billing matters, Fried Frank is also scaling back on some perks:
Reimbursement for dinner should only be expensed if the attorney must eat at the office in order to complete the client work by a specified deadline and will be working in the office past 8 p.m. Absent certain circumstances that are detailed in the policy, dinner for attorneys in the New York office should be purchased in the dining room, once it reopens.
In the evening, attorneys will be required to work until at least 9 p.m. in order to expense a car, sedan, or taxi ride home. In New York, cars will not be available in the garage until 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Whenever possible, expense reports should be submitted to accounting on a weekly basis. No reimbursement will be made for any expense not submitted to accounting for reimbursement within 60 days from the time the expense was incurred.
That’ll save some nickels. Meanwhile, in this economy, working out is something you should clearly do on your own dime:
The Firm routinely reviews the benefits available to attorneys. It has been determined that the gym subsidy is now a taxable fringe benefit and therefore of lesser value to each individual than originally anticipated. In these challenging financial times and given its lesser value, we have determined that we will no longer subsidize health club memberships. However, each attorney will continue to have the option to purchase a membership at a discounted corporate rate, as well as waive the initiation fee when enrolling in a Firm approved health club. We will also continue to allow payroll deductions to pay for the membership, and on request can divide the cost over two or three pay periods.
As mentioned, this subsidy was determined to be a taxable fringe benefit, and, therefore, to be of lesser value as a benefit to each individual….
Going forward, we should expect many firms to tighten up the ship in this manner. We just hope that more transparency in billing methods doesn’t lead to more stealth in layoff news.
Check out the full Fried Frank billing policy below.