Last week, we asked our associate readers to tell us how their billable hours were shaping up in 2012 so far. The results are in, and partners and associates alike may be glad to learn that things seem pretty normal.

I mean, if you didn’t know that there hasn’t been a salary raise for five years, or that bonuses are now paid in Amex gift cards, you’d say that associate billables had achieved a happy balance.

Some people are working very hard, some people are slacking off, and most people are somewhere in the middle, keeping their heads down but not trying to be heroes…

There were, of course, extremophiles in our poll. At the top end, 28% of readers claimed to be on pace for 2200 hours or more. Meanwhile, 24% of readers claimed to be billing 1800 hours or less.

That sounds about right: a quarter of associates go nuts, a quarter hide in the shadows, and about half of them end up grinding out somewhere between 1800 – 2200 hours and hoping for the best.

I find the normalcy to be a little bit surprising, given that bonuses have been so crappy. I mean, if bonuses have no impact on how hard associates work (or how little they work), then what is the incentive to give out decent bonuses? Is it (gasp) possible that partners have known all along that their associates’ output has little to do with their firms’ bonus generosity?

EMPEROR PARTNERTINE: Young fool. Only now, at the end, do you understand…
ELIE MYSTWALKER: Nevertheless, I’m talking to your associate captains and their friends. You can either profit by this or be destroyed. It’s your choice, but I warn you not to underestimate my power.
EMPEROR PARTNERTINE: I’m looking forward to completing your training. In time you will call *me* master.
ADMIRAL LATBAR: It’s a trap!
ELIE MYSTWALKER: Noooooo…

Look, I give our partner readers credit: they know their business. Right now the fear of losing a job is all the motivation most of their workforce needs. If things keep up like this, you can expect bonuses to be just as crappy at the end of 2012 as they were in 2011.

Check out the next page to see the full results of our survey….


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