NALP Bulletin, May 2006
One of the most sought after law firm measures, after salaries, is the billable hours requirement.
For a law firm, the requirement says a great deal not only about standards but also about law firm culture. Yet, for all the interest in billable hours requirements, a great deal of anecdotal misinformation persists. Are billable hours requirements really highest in New York? How many firms require 2,000 billable hours per year? Are there cities where a requirement of 1,800 billable hours is more the norm?
Law offices that list in the NALP Directory of Legal Employers provide information on hours worked, billable hours worked, and billable hours requirements. Job seekers can consider this information as they compare law firms they are considering. But what about the bigger picture? What if you are interested in knowing how a firm’s requirements — or, as an employer, your firm’s requirements — compare with those of other firms in the area, the region, or nationwide? Or what if you want your career counseling to be grounded in a clearer understanding of billable hours requirements?
NALP is able to analyze the information reported in the NALP Directory of Legal Employers, and each year produces a report entitled Patterns & Practices: Measures of Law Firm Hiring, Leverage, and Billable Hours. This report presents key findings not only on hours worked and billable requirements but also on hiring trends for entry-level associates, summer associates and laterals, summer program outcomes, and partner to associate ratios, or leverage. Patterns & Practices includes nationwide figures and information by firm size, region, and for over 40 cities and states represented in the Directory. Summary tables of key findings are also included, and one of those tables from the recently released Patterns & Practices is presented on the opposite page. Among the findings:
Summary of Billable Hours Requirements — 2004
(most frequently reported figure)
|% of Offices|
|By Firm Size:|
|100 or fewer attorneys||1,800||43.3|
|501 or more attorneys||1,950||42.9|
|By Office Size:|
|25 or fewer attorneys||1,800||23.7|
|101 or more attorneys||1,900||22.7|
|By NALP Region:|
|West/Rocky Mtn.||1,800/1,950||24.4 each|
|Kansas City area||1,850||50.0|
|Minneapolis/St. Paul||1,800/1,900||20.0 each|
|New York City||1,950||35.0|
|Northern NJ/Newark area||1,850/1,900||33.3 each|
|Orange County, CA||1,950||47.4|
|Portland, OR||1,800/1,850||35.7 each|
|San Jose area||1,900/1,950||35.3 each|
Note: State figures exclude any cities reported separately.