The dreaded timesheets...

For those already working as lawyers, what are working with
timesheets like? Do you feel the pressure? Or do you thrive on the
pressure?

It's the absolute worst aspect of practicing law, IMO.

oh great :(

I've been hearing all about timesheets timesheets
timesheets in law school. So it's as bad as people
say it is?

Billable hours, usually in 20min slots from what I hear, although that
could vary from law firm to law firm. The partners want you to fill every
goddamn minute of your day billing your clients for your work.

usually in 20min slots from what I hear, although that could vary from law firm to law firm

Every large Philadelphia firm that I know of uses 6 minute slots. Very much a pain in the ass, and a large part of the reason that I no longer work for a firm.

Time sheets suck. But, when you bill by the hour, they are what you live and die by. If you do not bill hours, nobody pays you anything. If you are an associate, that means you get fired. If you are a partner, that means you go out of business. Bill those hours, and you survive.

Steve, how many hours are you typically billing? I'm a bit down this year, and am averaging about 175 per month.

Steve, how many hours are you typically billing? I'm a bit down this year, and am averaging about 175 per month.

When I was with the firm, I was usually billing around 170. We had a 2,000/year requirement. Now that I'm a consultant, my billables have gone wayyyyy down, in part because of our billing policies and in part because of all the other stuff (Intellectual capital, marketing, speeches and presentations, etc.) that I'm required to do. I usually bill right around 100 hours a month now.

Thanks. I always wonder what other people bill, but never get around to asking.

Is it normal for everyone to make the quota? Is it
usually a struggle to make it?

I hated billable hours when I was working at my old law firm. We were supposed to bill 200 hours per month, which was a completely retarded amount to have to bill. In fact, almost nobody really billed that much. It was just an unattainable goal that the partners used as an excuse to ride people unjustifiably, deny people bonuses or otherwise fuck people however it suited them.

One Sunday, while I was in the office of one of the partners, I noticed that he had left the billable hours report for the year out on the table, and I had a nice gander at it while I was in the office. As it turned out, I was listed as #2 in the firm for billable hours, even as they were telling me how badly I sucked in comparison to everyone else. I thought I sucked, too, although I knew I had made fairly significant improvement from my first few months. The next time the big boss made a snide comment about how many hours I billed, I told him that I billed more hours than almost anyone and that he had absolutely no basis to criticize me. He pulled out the report, looked at it, then said I was right and to "never mind." That place really sucked! :)

By the way, when I left that goddamn law firm, I was billing right around 180 hours per month, give or take 10 hours each way. I did that by working at least 60 hours per week.

gakami - as an associate, you had better reach the quota they set for you, or they will send you packing. Just don't work for the firm Grappleddog work at. :-) Otherwise, most firms set pretty legitimate goals. We don't even set minimums for our associates, but if they bill low hours, we talk to them about it. The simple fact is that without billable hours, the firm generates no income.

One of the main reasons I left private practice was the almighty billable hour and timesheets. The following is not meant as a criticism of anyone on this thread:

I think the vast majority of lawyers "pad" their hours one way or the other to make or exceed the minimum requirement.

I felt pressured to do this at several firms although none of my bosses were ballsy enough to come right out and say it. My billables were always woefully small and this caused never-ending tension with my various bosses. I'm glad I don't have to deal with that shit any more.

If you're able to get work done in less time, doesn't that mean you're an efficient worker? I suppose that leaves you with more time to complete other work, but again it comes down to efficiency.. is that right?

I work for an accounting firm. Same deal: track every 6 minutes of your day.

Worst part of the job is doing the time-sheet, then being judged by your bosses according to your stats!

"I work for an accounting firm."

Are you saying you're an accountant or a lawyer working in an
accounting firm?

If you're able to get work done in less time, doesn't that mean you're an efficient worker? I suppose that leaves you with more time to complete other work, but again it comes down to efficiency.. is that right?

In my experience in firm life, efficiency is secondary to money-making. In other words, don't be too efficient because you'll cut down on the amount of work to be done and, therefore, you'll cut down on the amount of $ the firm can charge.

BTW, I admit that I have a particularly nasty view of all of this. I am sure that others would justifiably disagree with me.

I think TPN has pretty well summed it up. I have seen los of attorneys padding their bills. I am the lowest billing partner in my firm, but I think my hours are pretty accurate. I've seen attorneys claim 300 hours in a month before. Think about it - that's 10 billable hours a day, every day. Not likely. Billables is one of the things I dislike the most about law practice. I'm just not to a point where I want to give up the income yet.

One of the attorneys in my old firm made the mistake of billing the same insurance company 26.5 hours in one day, on two different cases (when he was in trial on one of the cases). He did work a lot of hours, but not quite that many. He explained it away as a billing error, of course, but that's the kind of thing that is not easily explained.

On occasion, my old firm would encourage us to use "value billing" to increase our hours. So, an answer to a complaint was supposed to be worth about 4 hours, even if it did not take exactly that long to do. The boss also encouraged us never to make it obvious that we had some type of standardized value for different things, as it would be if we billed 4.0 hours. He said if it was an easy answer, bill it at 3.7, a more difficult answer, then 4.3. Plus, we were encouraged to paper the hell out of the file to bill the most hours possible. As in, we should write letters to opposing counsel confirming everything, even if a letter was not really necessary. We were supposed to write letters to anyone to whom we could write a letter. Also, just before I left, I saw some of the bills the firm sent out and noticed that sometimes the work I did was attributed to my boss, who was billed at $30 more per hour than I was. However, the insurance company would regularly try to cut the bill, sometimes in a totally arbitrary fashion. They determined that an issue should not have taken 20 hours to research, even if it really did take that long, and they just cut that part of the bill in half.

I found all this incredibly shady and fucked up. It was like some kind of absurd game wherein we tried to bill an insurance company the maximum amount on a case, and the insurance company tried to stop us from doing so. I hated it. That's why I felt like I had been liberated from Lubyanka Prison when I went to work for the Legislature and no longer had to work in an environment where things did not seem to be on the up and up.

word, Grappledog, word.

BTW, you posted:

Plus, we were encouraged to paper the hell out of the file to bill the most hours possible. As in, we should write letters to opposing counsel confirming everything, even if a letter was not really necessary. We were supposed to write letters to anyone to whom we could write a letter.

Although this does help to increase billables, it is also an unfortunate, but necessary CYA to protect yourself against unscrupulous opposing counsel AND nasty, unappreciative, back-stabbing, non-paying, mother-fucking clients who will seacrh high and low for even the slightest fuck up with which to hang you.

:-)

I speak from experience, but never got hanged precisely because I was good about CYA'ing. One of my bosses was obsessively paranoid about this kind of thing and he imparted some of that paranoia to me. Sadly, it is a necessity.