How Much Do Associates Have to Work?

NALP Bulletin, April 2007

This month's column presents a series of analyses from the 2006-2007 NALP Directory of Legal Employers. Some of these analyses used to appear annually in the Patterns & Practices report, which has been discontinued, and some of the analyses cover new information that appeared on the NALP Form for the first time in 2006.

The first two tables report on total and billable hours worked in 2005, showing both the distribution of the figures reported, and the average figure reported, overall and by firm size. The third table shows the five most commonly reported billable hours requirements, and the percent of offices reporting each, as well as an average. Although a requirement of 2,000 billable hours per year is not typical, and it is not possible to track changes at individual firms and offices, a requirement of 2,000 hours is becoming more common on an aggregate basis, accounting for about 14% of reported minimums, up from about 9% for 2004. The overall average of 1,886 hours per year is an increase over the average of 1,874 in 2004.

The next series of tables reports on a variety of items related to pro bono work. Because these items had not previously been included in the Directory, this is the first time for reporting on these items in detail. (Previous analyses based on NALP's Workplace Questionnaire had neither the breadth nor detail of information provided here.) Tables 4, 5, and 6 report on whether firms give billable hours credit for pro bono work, and if so, is there a maximum that will be credited and the amount of that maximum. As Table 6 shows, a maximum, if there is one, is typically 50 or 100 hours, with 50 hours more typical of firms of less than 700 lawyers, and 100 hours more typical of firms of more than 700 lawyers. Table 7 reports on the extent to which pro bono hours are considered as equivalent to billable hours for bonus purposes.

Finally, Tables 8 and 9 report on the extent to which firms have a set minimum number of pro bono hours that they encourage, and if so, what that minimum is. Note that the items compiled in Tables 8 and 9 appear only online, not in the print directory.

Table 1. Average Total Hours Worked in 2005 — By Firm Size

  PERCENT REPORTING: Average # of Hours # of Offices Reporting
1,000-1,999 Hours 2,000-2,099 Hours 2,100-2,199 Hours 2,200 or More Hours
Total 26.1% 29.7% 20.7% 23.5% 2,065 690
By Size of Firm (# of lawyers):
50 or fewer 53.1 25.0 8.3 13.5 1,950 96
51-100 43.4 34.3 11.1 11.1 2,005 99
101-250 28.3 36.7 18.1 16.9 2,040 166
251-500 11.1 25.6 33.3 30.0 2,123 180
501-700 8.9 11.1 28.9 51.1 2,168 45
701+ 14.4 33.7 20.2 31.7 2,124 104

Source: 2006-07 NALP Directory of Legal Employers

Table 2. Average Billable Hours Worked in 2005 — By Firm Size 

  PERCENT REPORTING: Average # of Hours # of Offices Reporting
1,000-1,799 Hours 1,800-1,850 Hours 1,851-1,950 Hours 1,951 or More Hours
Total 24.8% 26.3% 32.3% 16.6% 1,850 799
By Size of Firm (# of lawyers):
50 or fewer 35.2 28.6 13.3 22.9 1,823 105
51-100 26.2 27.1 31.8 15.0 1,851 107
101-250 23.7 34.3 23.7 18.2 1,843 198
251-500 20.2 26.3 40.8 12.7 1,861 228
501-700 34.9 20.9 34.9 9.3 1,836 43
701+ 21.2 11.9 46.6 20.3 1,870 118

Source: 2006-07 NALP Directory of Legal Employers

Table 3. Billable Hours Requirements per Year — By Firm Size

  PERCENT REPORTING: Average # of Hours # of Offices Reporting
1,800 Hours 1,850 Hours 1,900 Hours 1,950 Hours 2,000 Hours
Total 19.6% 16.2% 22.2% 17.2% 14.2% 1,886 1,084
By Size of Firm (# of lawyers):
50 or fewer 35.4 17.2 8.1 3.0 8.1 1,819 99
51-100 38.6 21.2 16.7 3.8 9.1 1,849 132
101-250 22.8 21.1 21.1 10.2 8.5 1,864 246
251-500 14.3 14.9 30.4 22.2 11.9 1,901 329
501-700 21.8 21.8 16.7 25.6 12.8 1,890 78
701+ 3.5 6.5 23.0 30.0 32.0 1,944 200

Note: Percentages do not add to 100 because not all billable requirement figures reported are shown. Those shown are the five most commonly reported.
Source: 2006-2007 NALP Directory of Legal Employers

Table 4. Is Billable Hours Credit Given for Pro Bono Work? — By Firm Size

   Yes Case-by-Case No # of Offices Reporting
Total 74.7% 6.8% 18.5% 1,400
By Size of Firm (# of lawyers):
50 or fewer 52.4 12.6 35.0 103
51-100 63.4 14.2 22.4 134
101-250 59.9 7.9 32.1 302
251-500 72.4 7.4 20.3 380
501-700 93.1 0.0 6.9 130
701+ 94.0 3.1 2.8 351

Source: 2006-07 NALP Directory of Legal Employers

Table 5. Where Billable Hours Credit Given for Pro Bono Work —
Is There a Maximum That Will Be Credited? — By Firm Size

   Yes Case-by-Case No # of Offices Reporting
Total 38.5% 11.1% 50.4% 1,020
By Size of Firm (# of lawyers):
50 or fewer 20.3 25.4 54.2 59
51-100 34.8 22.5 42.7 89
101-250 48.6 7.3 44.1 179
251-500 46.4 6.5 47.1 261
501-700 40.4 12.3 47.4 114
701+ 30.2 10.7 59.1 318

Source: 2006-07 NALP Directory of Legal Employers

Table 6. Maximum Number of Pro Bono Hours That May Be Credited Toward Billable Hours Requirements per Year — By Firm Size

   PERCENT REPORTING: Average # of Hours Credited # of Offices Reporting
50 Hours 100 Hours
Total 43.8% 26.6% 77 361
By Size of Firm (# of lawyers):
50 or fewer 45.5 27.3 60 11
51-100 57.1 28.6 62 28
101-250 50.0 13.4 69 82
251-500 52.2 18.3 69 115
501-700 47.1 14.7 113 34
701+ 22.0 52.7 87 91

Note: Percentages do not add to 100 because not all reported hours figures are shown. However, no other hours figure accounted for more than 2% of responses. Figures are based on 361 offices/firms that reported setting a maximum number of pro bono hours which can be credited toward billable hours, and that also reported the maximum.
Source: 2006-07 NALP Directory of Legal Employers

Table 7. Are Pro Bono Hours Equivalent to Billable Hours for Bonus Purposes? By Firm Size

   Yes Case-by-Case No # of Offices Reporting
Total 72.0% 10.8% 17.2% 1,189
By Size of Firm (# of lawyers):
50 or fewer 39.5 25.9 34.6 81
51-100 49.5 27.6 22.9 105
101-250 61.9 7.9 30.1 239
251-500 72.6 11.2 16.2 321
501-700 84.4 2.5 13.1 122
701+ 89.7 6.5 3.7 321

Source: 2006-07 NALP Directory of Legal Employers

Table 8. Is There a Minimum Number of Pro Bono Hours Encouraged? — By Firm Size

   Yes No # of Offices Reporting
Total 45.7% 54.3% 1,120
By Size of Firm (# of lawyers):
50 or fewer 12.0 88.0 83
51-100 25.2 74.8 107
101-250 34.2 65.8 225
251-500 59.7 40.3 293
501-700 43.4 56.6 83
701+ 56.8 43.2 329

Source: 2006-07 NALP Directory of Legal Employers

Table 9. Number of Pro Bono Hours that Are Encouraged — By Firm Size

   PERCENT REPORTING: Average # of Hours Encouraged # of Offices Reporting
20 Hours 25 Hours 30 Hours 40 Hours 50 Hours 60 Hours 100 Hours
Total 15.7% 8.5% 3.7% 4.8% 42.7% 9.2% 8.1% 48 459
By Size of Firm (# of lawyers):
50 or fewer 0.0 0.0 14.3 0.0 57.1 0.0 0.0 42 7
51-100 0.0 8.3 0.0 4.2 66.7 4.2 12.5 54 24
101-250 8.3 0.0 12.5 1.4 59.7 1.4 8.3 46 72
251-500 13.6 18.5 4.3 0.0 35.2 3.7 13.6 53 162
501-700 0.0 0.0 0.0 27.3 57.6 6.1 6.1 49 33
701+ 27.3 4.3 0.0 6.8 35.4 19.9 2.5 43 161

Note: Percentages do not add to 100 because not all reported hours figures are shown. The figures shown are the five most commonly reported. No other figures accounted for more than 2% of responses. Figures are based on 459 offices/firms that reported encouraging a minimum number of pro bono hours and that also reported that number.
Source: 2006-2007 NALP Directory of Legal Employers

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