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May 12, 2005

Billable Hours: A 3L Vignette

buddha (11:28:10 PM): http://www.envoyglobal.net/jdbliss/test/calculator2.htm
buddha (11:28:14 PM): also, there's coffee if you want
roommate (11:28:51 PM): i will come get some
roommate (11:28:56 PM): what is this thing
buddha (11:29:15 PM): it figures out how much your life will suck based on how many hours you have to bill
roommate (11:29:32 PM): haha
buddha (11:30:12 PM): you plug in numbers for billable target, commute time, when you get to and leave the office, how long you spend on lunch, etc. and it tells you things like how many hours you have to spend working at home each week
roommate (11:30:55 PM): i hate you
buddha (11:31:05 PM): i hate the internet
buddha (11:46:59 PM): fuck me. the bar loan deadline was today
buddha (12:01:28 AM): thank god for the internet. i made it by like 2 minutes
roommate (12:01:40 AM): wow
buddha (12:02:06 AM): it really ought not be that easy to get loans
roommate (12:02:13 AM): i know

The internet, in addition to all those things I said about it in my seminar paper, is both a phenomenal distraction and an excellent tool. I only wish that it would shut itself off when I am trying to study. The coffee was excellent, but as a 3L, I had hoped not to be breweing full pots of coffee at midnight.

The source of the link in the above conversation looks at what it really means to bill 2000 hours and asks why anyone would ever want to take a job like that. For starters, so we can pay for law school and the bar exam, among other things. I have some more thoughts on this which I'll hold of on until after the First Amendment final I'm (theoretically) preparing for at the moment.

[link via rethink(ip)]

Posted by buddha at May 12, 2005 03:38 PM

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Comments

so what's life like for you if you're billing 2000 hours?

Posted by: jubro at May 13, 2005 12:58 AM

Well, it's all speculation, but here are the numbers I put in.

Target: 2100 hours (my firm's target is lower, but as Douglas Sorocco noted on the site where I found this, associates have to exceed the target to be eligible for bonus).

Arrive Office: 8:30AM
Depart Office: 7:00PM
Morning Commute: 45 min
Evening Commute: 45 min

Nonbillable Time
Lunch: 30 min
Personal: 30 min
Professional: 45 min
Administrative: 45 min

Vacation: 10 days
Personal: 5 days
Holidays: 10 days

This has me in the office for 10.5 hours a day, billing 8 hours/day, 47.7 weeks. It's 76% efficiency, and requires me to pick up an additional 3.7 hours/week to make the target.

That's a 52.5 hour work week, plus 5 on the weekends. It seems completely reasonable. At first.

The numbers I used are extraordinarily ambitious. I can easily cut lunches down to 15 minutes most days, but I'm almost certainly underestimating administrative, professional, and personal time. It also assumes I get to the office on time every day, and never leave before 7. Including commute, it's a 12 hour day.

Even if I am focused and work very hard, I will not be nearly this efficient when I start working, because the learning curve is so steep. I imagine the first few months will have very low billing, partly because it takes time to get integrated into ongoing cases and partly because I won't know what the hell I'm doing.

To get out of the resulting hole, and to account for my own likely inefficiency, I'm guessing it will be more along the lines of a 70 hour work week for the first year.

There's a lot of fudging going on, though, because I didn't work for this firm last summer, so I have less of an idea how they operate. At my summer firm, the vast majority of attorneys worked roughly 9-6, and the office was a ghost town on the weekends. The exceptions were litigation teams preparing for or in trial. Not a bad schedule, generally, but I doubt the average attorney there was billing 2100.

So, to answer your question, I have no idea what life is like billing 2000 hours. But this little calculator can distract me for extended periods of time.

Posted by: buddha at May 13, 2005 02:37 AM

I got the impression that one of the things you didn't like about the summer firm was the attitude that allowed them to be a ghosttown on weekends.

And still, that internship paid as much as my whole year...

Posted by: jubro at May 13, 2005 10:26 AM

I don't like working weekends any more than the next person, and if I could avoid it and get everything else I wanted out of my career, I would gladly do so. The firm I worked for over the summer offered a decent work-life balance, but it had many other problems. One of those problems was a strong impression that the balance wasn't going to last much longer, but that the impending increase in time wasn't going to improve or offset the other negatives.

As I said to someone else recently, money and time commitment are both big factors in a job, but they're not the only ones. I wouldn't have been happy if I had returned to the same firm, which meant I wouldn't have served my clients or myself as well in the long run. So I didn't go back.

Posted by: buddha at May 13, 2005 10:49 AM

Jubro,

Don't most firms basically discount your first few months and not start making you truly be on the clock (for yearly billable goals) until the beginning of the new year? That's what mine did. I've heard others do as well.

Posted by: Fool at May 14, 2005 04:49 AM

fool, you're confusing jubu (me) with jubro (our man in Tokyo). My brother doesn't know the ins and outs of firm life. ;-)

Many firms don't start the clock until around November. Some even wait as long as Jan. 1, which makes things much more pleasant. Mine starts its billable year in September, so my hours count from day one (the hiring partner told me this very explicitly when I originally told him I wanted to start in mid-October).

Posted by: buddha at May 14, 2005 04:56 AM

Assuming you get to review the firm at some point, I strongly recommend starting your recommendation with the words, "The whole start the billable year thing in September is total fucking bullshit."

As to my confusing jubu and jubro, oy!

Posted by: fool at May 15, 2005 12:05 AM

No firm is perfect, unfortunately. But I'll take my future employer. The early start isn't the end of the world... it's not like I'm sitting on a pile of cash.

Posted by: buddha at May 15, 2005 11:09 AM

Yet.

Posted by: jubro at May 15, 2005 12:01 PM

Or in the forseaable future.

Posted by: buddha at May 15, 2005 12:54 PM

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