Number of Associate Hours Worked Declines

NALP Bulletin, February 2011

The most recent information available makes it evident that both the average number of hours worked and the average number of billable hours worked per year has declined since 2007, likely due to the slowdown in the legal economy starting in 2008. In 2009, the average total number of hours worked stood at 2,032, compared with 2,066 in 2007; the respective figures for billable hours were 2,032 and 2,066.

Table 1 and Table 2 report on total and billable hours worked in 2009, as reported in the 2010-2011 NALP Directory of Legal Employers, showing both the distribution of figures reported and the average. For comparison, the average for 2008, as reported by the same firms in the 2010-2011 Directory, is also shown. As an additional point of comparison, 2007 figures are also provided. Although these 2007 figures were compiled from the 2009-2010 Directory and so do not reflect exactly the same set of offices as in the 2010-2011 Directory, they are similar enough to enable general comparisons.

As these tables make evident, the fall-off in hours over this period has been most severe at firms of more than 500 lawyers. The decline was generally less steep at smaller firms, and firms of 100 or fewer lawyers in fact gained ground on billable hours worked in 2009 compared with 2008, although the 2009 levels remain below those of 2007. For example, billable hours worked at firms of more than 700 lawyers averaged 1,836 in 2007, 1,801 in 2008, and 1,729 in 2009. For firms of 51-100 lawyers, the comparable figures were 1,837, 1,795, and 1,801.

Finally, the most recent reporting of billable hours requirements in the 2010-2011 Directory reveals an average of 1,874 hours per year overall and 1,905 hours per year at firms of more than 700 lawyers (Table 3). As has been the case since NALP began compiling these figures, a requirement of 2,000 hours per year is not typical. And although it is not possible to track changes at individual firms and offices, a requirement of 2,000 hours has accounted for just 9% to 12% of reported requirements since 2004. Among firms of more than 700 lawyers, about 20% reported a 2,000 hour requirement, compared with 32% in the prior year. The average requirement in this group of firms likewise decreased from 1,930 to 1,905 hours per year. But overall, the distribution has moved "to the right." For example, in 1998, the most commonly reported figure was 1,800 hours, reported by about 30% of offices. Today, about 20% of offices report an 1,800-hour requirement.

Table 1. Average Total Hours Worked in 2009 with Comparisons to 2007 and 2008

Firm Size PERCENT REPORTING Average in 2007 Average in 2008 Average in 2009 # of Offices Reporting
1,000-1,999 Hours 2,000-2,099 Hours 2,100-2,199 Hours 2,200 or More Hours
Overall 43.1% 18.4% 20.9% 17.7% 2,066 2,042 2,032 555
By Size of Firm (# of Lawyers)
50 or fewer 62.7 17.9 1.5 17.9 1,946 1,956 1,956 67
51-100 49.3 26.8 11.3 12.7 2,008 1,998 1,994 71
101-250 59.1 25.8 7.6 7.6 2,018 1,990 1,964 132
251-500 20.6 15.9 37.4 26.2 2,098 2,067 2,110 107
501-700 32.0 28.0 10.0 30.0 2,209 2,107 2,087 50
701+ 35.9 4.7 40.6 18.8 2,157 2,121 2,076 128

Source: 2010-2011 NALP Directory of Legal Employers for 2008 and 2009 figures; 2009-2010 NALP Directory of Legal Employers for the 2007 figures.
Note: The number of offices shown in the last column is the number reporting a figure for 2009. A few of these offices did not also report a figure for 2008. Note that the average 2007 figures shown are based on figures reported in the 2009-2010 Directory, not the 2010-2011 Directory, and so do not reflect the identical set of offices. However, the average of 2008 figures as compiled from the 2010-2011 Directory are quite close to those compiled from the 2009-2010 Directory, suggesting that the 2007 figures compiled from the 2009-2010 Directory can be used to make general comparisons with the 2008 and 2009 figures compiled from the 2010-2011 Directory.

Table 2. Average Billable Hours Worked in 2009 with Comparisons to 2007 and 2008

Firm Size PERCENT REPORTING Average in 2007 Average in 2008 Average in 2009 # of Offices Reporting
1,000-1,750 Hours 1,751-1,800 Hours 1,801-1,900 Hours More than 1,900 Hours
Overall 42.6% 19.9% 17.3% 20.2% 1,829 1,785 1,771 578
By Size of Firm (# of lawyers)
50 or fewer 43.7 14.1 18.3 23.9 1,799 1,773 1,776 71
51-100 35.9 17.9 15.4 30.8 1,837 1,795 1,801 78
101-250 43.8 16.8 29.2 10.2 1,820 1,786 1,766 137
251-500 38.8 24.0 8.5 28.7 1,843 1,771 1,798 129
501-700 45.3 24.5 18.9 11.3 1,837 1,777 1,762 53
701+ 48.2 21.8 12.7 17.3 1,836 1,801 1,729 110

Source: 2010-2011 NALP Directory of Legal Employers for 2008 and 2009 figures; 2009-2010 NALP Directory of Legal Employers for the 2007 figures.
Note: The number of offices shown in the last column is the number reporting a figure for 2009. A few of these offices did not also report a figure for 2008. Note that the average 2007 figures shown are based on figures reported in the 2009-2010 Directory, not the 2010-2011 Directory, and so do not reflect the identical set of offices. However, the average of 2008 figures as compiled from the 2010-2011 Directory are quite close to those compiled from the 2009-2010 Directory, suggesting that the 2007 figures compiled from the 2009-2010 Directory can be used to make general comparisons with the 2008 and 2009 figures compiled from the 2010-2011 Directory.

Table 3. Billable Hours Requirements per Year by Firm Size

Firm Size PERCENT REPORTING Average Required # of Offices Reporting
1,800 Hours 1,850 Hours 1,900 Hours 1,950 Hours 2,000 Hours
Overall 19.8% 19.3% 25.2% 16.7% 9.1% 1,874 963
By Size of Firm (# of lawyers)
50 or fewer 26.3 18.4 7.9 6.6 3.9 1,791 76
51-100 37.5 24.0 13.5 4.8 5.8 1,839 104
101-250 26.6 23.4 24.5 9.6 3.2 1,853 188
251-500 14.2 17.9 30.3 21.5 10.6 1,899 274
501-700 19.3 19.3 32.9 23.6 5.0 1888 140
701+ 8.8 14.9 26.5 22.7 20.4 1,905 181

Source: 2010-2011 NALP Directory of Legal Employers.
Note: Percentages do not add to 100 because not all billable requirement figures reported are shown. Those shown are the five most commonly reported and account for 90% of all figures reported.

National Association for Law Placement, Inc.® (NALP®)
1220 19th Street NW, Suite 401, Washington, DC 20036-2405
(202) 835-1001 info@nalp.org
© Copyright 2017 NALP

STAY CONNECTED



View Full Site