Billable Hours

In an earlier round-up on spring bonus stragglers, we talked about Latham & Watkins, Kirkland & Ellis, and Quinn Emanuel. Latham and Kirkland made spring bonus announcements a short while after our post, and now Quinn Emanuel is following suit.

Actually, not “following” — depending on how hard they work, QE associates can beat the market quite handily (as defined by Cravath). Quinn’s bonus structure always has significant escalators for high billable hours, and it’s no different with spring midyear bonuses.

Associates at Quinn who hit 2000 hours will get Cravath-level midyear bonuses. Associates at Quinn who hit 2100 hours will make as much in total bonus money, regular plus midyear, as their counterparts at Cravath. Quinn associates who bill over this mark will take home even more than their Cravath counterparts.

And, ye gods, QE associates can hit some ridiculous billable hour targets if they want to make the most of their time at Quinn….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Quinn Emanuel Matches Spring Bonuses at 2000 Hours — Then Things Get Crazy Fun”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Small Firms, Big Lawyers, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

Ever since I stopped billing by the hour in 2006, lawyers are constantly asking me, “How do you set your prices?” It’s a topic I’ve lectured on and written about frequently, and my new consulting firm, Prefix, LLC, focuses on teaching lawyers how to do it for themselves. But today, I want to turn the question around:

How do you set your billing rates?

It’s an important question, and one you should know the answer to.

I know what the books on starting your own firm say (I’ve read them). Most of them come up with a formula along these lines: Decide how much profit you want to make in a year, add your estimated annual overhead, then divide the sum by the number of hours you think you can bill in a year. That’s your hourly rate.

Yeah, right.

That’s not how anyone sets their billing rates, regardless of what the books say. Instead, their rates are based on three factors.…

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Judge A.P. 'Pete' Fuller

* New Egyptian democracy is already putting critics in jail. Dammit Middle East, this is why we can’t have nice things. [Gawker]

* We must make sure this technology never gets into the hands of clients. [LawyerClock]

* So it appears that South Dakota actually does have one badass living and working there — but now they want to kick him off the bench! [WSJ Law Blog]

* I tried so hard to come up with a meta-joke to go along with Ben Kerschberg’s story about metadata — and then I realized that I did and it’s just not that funny. [Forbes]

* You know what really makes Eliot Spitzer look bad? Andrew Cuomo. [Truth on the Market]

* Our very own Jay Shepherd doesn’t want to bill in six-minute increments, but he can present under such time pressure. [ABA Journal]

* Something tells me the fake law firm of Cromwell & Goodwin is about to get some very real resumes résumés. [Am Law Daily]

* When I was a kid, the only things you had to worry about finding on Long Island beaches were hypodermic syringes. Ah, the good old days. [Village Voice]

* Congratulations to Blawg Review. As Admiral Adama says, “Sometimes you have to roll the hard six.” [Blawg Review]

* Hey kids, don’t forget to send us your Law Revue clips. Share your funny — surely you can do better than this guy — with the rest of the world. [Above the Law]

If work is slow and you need a good chunk of hours to meet your billable target or to be eligible for a bonus, what’s your best bet for boosting your billables? 

According to the 884 respondents to Tuesday’s survey, pro bono work.  About 68% of respondents say their firms give billable credit for at least some pro bono hours.  On the other hand, only 12% of respondents say that their firms count client/business development activities as billable time, although another 15% report that these hours may affect bonus decisions.

What are some of the other popular billable activities?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Career Center Survey Results: What Counts as Billable Time”

Lately, many of you have been quite the busy billers, even working on MLK Day and Presidents Day.  What undoubtedly keeps most associates on the clock on holidays (and pretty much every day of the year) is client billable work.

But are there other kinds of activities for which your firm will give you billable hour credit?  Take our short survey, brought to you by Lateral Link, and tell us what counts as billable time at your firm. Then check back later this week for the survey results.

Take the survey, after the jump….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Career Center Survey: What Counts as Billable Time?”

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Small Firms, Big Lawyers, one of Above the Law’s new columns for small-firm lawyers.

I live near Wellesley, Massachusetts, a Boston suburb usually described with words like “leafy” and “tony.” (I get “leafy,” but I’ve never really figured out “tony.”) Think soccer moms in yoga pants and BMW SUVs. On the edge of town, where it is less leafy and tony, there is a small tailor shop. The owners are immigrants; English is not their first language. This is clear from the computer-printed signs on their windows and walls. My favorite sign is the one behind the register:


(Unnecessary quotation marks and extra exclamation point included.) I’m not exactly sure what they were trying to say. Maybe expensive wasn’t the word they were going for. Good? Chic? Tony? I don’t know. But the amusing phrase has stuck with me, and with many of my neighbors. I’m not even sure of the name of the shop, but everyone knows what I mean when I mention the sign. It’s a tailor-shop meme.

And a good one. In fact, I’d like to see small-firm lawyers make a similar sign and tape it to their mirrors. (Yeah, I know. I’m not a mirror-message taper either. But indulge me here.) Because the tailor-shop meme might remind them not to make the single biggest mistake that small-firm lawyers usually make: pricing their services too low….

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I used to race home to have sex with my wife. Now I leave work a half-hour early so I can get home before she does and masturbate to porn.

“Perry,” a 41-year-old lawyer, quoted in a recent New York magazine article on pornography’s effect on the male libido.

After a year like 2009 (aka the worst year ever for Biglaw), 2010 was bound to be better.  According to the nearly 1,000 survey responses we received, 2010 did in fact turn out to be a busier year for most associates.  An impressive 73% of respondents hit their firm’s minimum billable hours requirements or unofficial billable hours expectations, which ranged from 1,600 to 2,200 billable hours.  You can find a breakdown of the results by minimum billable hours required or expected, as well as by practice area, after the jump. 

Stay tuned for our next post, addressing associate satisfaction with 2010 bonus payments.  In the meantime, you can learn more about billable hours and bonuses at the nation’s top law firms on the Career Center, hosted by Lateral Link

Now, on to the survey results….

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By most accounts, law firms had a stronger year in 2010 than in 2009 (although you wouldn’t know it from the disappointing bonuses that many of them paid out). Did a busier year translate into plenty of billables for all associates? In this week’s survey, we want to know whether you met your firm’s minimum billable hours requirement (or unofficial billable hours expectation), and how happy you are with your bonus for the amount of hours you billed.

Please take our short survey below (we keep responses completely confidential), and we’ll bring you the results next week. In the meantime, you can compare billable hours requirements between the leading law firms at the Career Center, hosted by Lateral Link.

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Inside Straight, Above the Law’s new column for in-house counsel, written by Mark Herrmann.

Also, in case you missed them because of the holiday break, be sure to check out his recent posts on in-house compensation and bonuses.

First, a story. Then, my point.

(If I promise a point at the end, maybe you’ll persevere through the story.)

When I was a partner at a large law firm, sending out bills, I took the job seriously. I sat in a coffee shop one Sunday afternoon each month and went through every !*@!! time entry in every bill to be sure that (1) I could understand what task the lawyer had performed and (2) the time spent was not disproportionate to the work performed. Only then would I approve the bill.

Editing bills is like torture. In fact, strike the “like.” This is torture. At the end of three or four hours of editing bills, you’re ready to jam toothpicks into your eyes. So I took a lesson from Tom Sawyer and whitewashing fences: I conned my teenage son into thinking that editing bills was a very important job. He bit! (Other than falling for this, the kid is actually pretty smart.) During Jeremy’s sophomore through senior years of high school, he and I did some father-son bonding on the third Sunday of every month at the local coffee shop. I bought the kid a caramel frappuccino (“venti” if we were doing north of 500 grand in bills; otherwise, grande; always with whipped cream). He took half the stack of bills; I took the other half; we edited. (Stay calm. I didn’t charge clients even for my own time spent doing this, let alone the kid’s. This was on the up and up.)

What did we do?

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