Billable Hours

Former Rep. Denise Majette

A former congresswoman faces possible disbarment for allegedly overbilling a client.

Now, obviously overbilling is terrible and the bar should protect clients, but the allegations, at least as reproduced in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, sound damning only to the lay observer. As I read through the charges, it seemed like pretty run-of-the-mill litigation.

But whether the congresswoman engaged in overbilling or not, the story reminded me of the inherent shortcomings of believing the billable hour is objectively fair to clients….

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‘Can’t a kid have a five-minute feeding break without a partner email?’

I can’t actually make this stuff up. Yesterday, a Labor associate became an impromptu midwife. (Is there a term for a male in this role? Midhusband? I don’t know whether it was a man or a woman that should be credited with the assist on this one, and I’m assuming “midwife” is gender neutral for these purposes). The action took place inside a law firm’s office after a fellow attorney in the employee benefits practice started giving birth, presumably while redlining some rider for the umpteen-millionth time.

The mother, we hear, was due in the next week or so. According to our tipster, mom was hoping to maximize her hours before having to go on leave. Well, she succeeded.

Apparently, she needs to turn her talents toward renegotiating the firm’s employee benefits. A couple days off before having a baby might be a good place to start….

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* A new lawsuit asks, “Who owns Sherlock Holmes?” That sounds like a mystery suitable for… ugh, I can’t bring myself to finish that gag. [Courthouse News Service]

* The well-oiled train wreck that is the NCAA finds itself in hot water for ignoring legal advice and going after Miami using privileged information. Lawyers are often maligned by non-lawyers, so let’s enjoy this article from a sports columnist explaining why lawyers can be awesome. [EDSBS]

* There’s a new iTunes app to keep track of your hours! I’m assuming it has a Biglaw feature to pad hours. [Herald Online]

* A trilogy of articles about California’s prison “realignment,” described as “The Best Trilogy Since Star Wars.” I’m certainly hoping this isn’t a reference to Episodes I-III. [PrawfsBlawg]

* The previously discussed proposal to allow Arizonans to bypass law school and take the bar exam has been cut down. It was always ironic that the state most wrapped up in “they took our jobs!” rhetoric wanted to open the legal profession to everyone. [Verde Independent]

* The third in an ongoing series of posts covering the trial of DC superhero Firestorm. Too bad he doesn’t have that split personality defense to fall back on. For the three of you who got that joke, you’re welcome. [Law and the Multiverse]

Congratulations to the 11 new partners at Akin Gump. They’re an impressive and diverse group, hailing from offices all across the country.

But not all news out of Akin is happy. Last month, for example, the firm — a perennial contender in our annual holiday card contest — failed to take top honors.

And some Akin associates feel that they got coal in their stockings this winter. Let’s check out the Akin grumps….

UPDATE (2/15/2013, 9:30 AM): Full bonus memo added after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Bellyachin’ at Akin”

Over the last three weeks, we have heard from an In-House Insider, an opinionated source of insight into Biglaw-client relations — see here, here, here, and below. As with the three prior installments, the only changes I made to the Insider’s words were those done to protect their identity, and Insider was given the opportunity to revise their points once I added the questions and commentary. Again, I thank Insider for the candid observations and thoughtful opinions on these core issues….

AP: Any serious observer of Biglaw can see that firms continue to struggle adapting associate development to the new state of Biglaw-client relations. What can Biglaw learn from corporate clients like yourself on that front?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Buying In: An Interview with an In-House Insider (Part 4)”

We’re in the middle of what we previously referred to as the second wave of law firm bonus announcements. Later today, for example, we’ll write about the Latham & Watkins announcement from yesterday. (So far we’re hearing mixed things; if you’re at Latham and would like to opine on the bonuses, feel free to email us or text us (646-820-8477).)

Right now we’re going to discuss the bonuses announced at Goodwin Procter (which actually just hired a partner, Brynn Peltz, away from Latham). The Goodwin bonus announcement came out on Tuesday of this week.

So what do 2012 bonuses at Goodwin Procter look like?

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Tom Wallerstein

“I am having a root canal this morning, so I’ll be working from home.”

Some attorneys use the expression “working from home” to mean that they are mostly taking the day off for one reason or another. In other words, they really mean that they are “not working.”

Other times, “working from home” really means “I’m still working, just not in the office.” I might do this, for example, to avoid a long commute or because I can better tackle my project at home, perhaps because my home will offer fewer distractions.

Assuming that “working from home” means that you still are working, albeit in a different physical location, should a firm care when or whether an attorney comes into the office, provided nothing time-sensitive needs to be accomplished that day?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “From Biglaw to Boutique: Working from Home”

Over the last two weeks, we have heard from an In-House Insider, an opinionated source of insight into Biglaw-client relations — see here, here, and below. As with the two prior installments, the only changes I made to the Insider’s words were those done to protect their identity, and Insider was given the opportunity to revise their points once I added the questions and commentary. Again, I thank Insider for the candid observations and thoughtful opinions on these core issues.

AP: How firms are viewed from a value perspective is often very difficult to gauge from the outside. What criteria do you use to determine if a firm is delivering services to your company appropriately from a billing perspective?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Buying In: An Interview with an In-House Insider (Part 3)”

Law firm bonus announcements come in two waves. In November and December, the New York-centric firms announce their bonuses (after taking their cue from Cravath). In January and February, the West Coast and also nationally oriented firms announce their bonuses for the prior year.

So the 2012 bonus season isn’t over, even though we’re now two weeks into 2013. Yesterday, for example, brought bonus news from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.

Orrick is a leader is the brave new world of “merit-based compensation.” What are they up to now?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Orrick Charts A Steady Course”

Last week I spoke with an In-House Insider, a Biglaw refugee turned in-house counsel. You can see what our Insider has to say about the state of Biglaw and client relations here and below.

As with the initial installment, the only changes I made to the Insider’s words were those done to protect their identity, and the Insider was given the opportunity to revise their points once I added the questions and commentary.

Again, I thank the Insider for the candid observations and thoughtful opinions on these core issues. Now, on to the discussion….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Buying In: An Interview with an In-House Insider (Part 2)”

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