President Obama made a pretty interesting statement in yesterday’s inaugural address:
Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished.
But based on last week’s ATL / Lateral Link survey, which asked you how many hours you billed last year, these words of inspiration might not quite fit the legal profession. As we noted last week, more than a quarter of respondents were unable to bill even 1800 hours last year.
And many commenters suggested that the situation will be more dire in 2009:
Hitting 2000 hours for 2008 was doable because the bulk of the slow-down didn’t occur until September/October. Only because I had very high hours before then was I able to just barely hit 2000 hours for the year. 2009 will be much worse. I’m worried.
what are these “billable hours” of which you speak? i keep hearing they’re good to have, but i can’t find them anywhere. i’ve looked under the rug and everything!
Other commenters pointed out that even 2008 was probably a worse year financially than last week’s survey suggests:
It is hard to tell how busy associates really were based on this data. One problem is that “billable hour” may mean different things at different firms. At some firms “billable hour” = client billable hours only. But many firms give billable hours credit for pro bono, recruitment and professional development work. I would be curious to see how much CLIENT BILLABLE hours associates had in 2008 and what they are expecting for 2009.
Also, pro bono hours are way up, which is great for our day-to-day feeling of some accomplishment, but not as great for our future viability.
In today’s survey, we’ll focus on both issues: how much of your “billable” work last year was really for “CLIENT BILLABLE” time, and what do you think 2009 will look like?
Update: This survey is now closed. Click here to see the results.