How Much Do Associates Work?

How Much Do Associates Work?
Most Firms Do Not Require 2,000 Billable Hours

NALP Bulletin, April 2009

Analyses based on NALP's 2008-2009 Directory of Legal Employers show that a requirement of 2,000 billable 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 become only slightly more common on an aggregate basis, accounting for 12% of reported minimums, up from 9% in 2004. But overall, the distribution has moved "to the right." For example, ten years ago the most commonly reported figure was 1,800 hours, reported by about 30% of offices. Today, 16% of offices report an 1,800-hour minimum.

The first two tables report on total and billable hours worked in 2007, showing both the distribution of figures reported and the average. For comparison, the average for 2006, as reported by the same firms, is also shown. The third table shows the five most commonly reported billable hours requirements, the percent of offices reporting each, as well as an average.

The next series of tables reports on a variety of items related to pro bono work. Tables 4, 5, and 6 report on whether firms give billable hours credit for pro bono work, and if so, whether there is a maximum that will be credited and what that maximum is. As Table 6 shows, a maximum, if there is one, is typically 50 or 100 hours, with 50 hours more typical of firms of 500 or fewer lawyers, and 100 hours generally more typical of the largest firms. 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 hours that they encourage, and if so, what that minimum is. Note that the items compiled in Tables 8 and 9 appear only in the online NALP Directory of Legal Employers (www.nalpdirectory.com) and not in the print edition.

In general, the percentages reported in Tables 4-9 have not changed a great deal in a year. However, offices overall were a bit more likely to provide billable hours credit for pro bono work (79% versus 76%), to report that pro bono hours are equal to billable hours for bonus purposes (77% versus 73%), and to encourage a minimum number of pro bono hours (57% versus 51%.) To view the complete analysis compiled from the 2007-2008 NALP Directory, see www.nalp.org/2008aprbillablehours.

Table 1. Average Total Hours Worked in 2007

Firm size Percent Reporting: Average
in 2006
Average
in 2007
# of offices
reporting
1,000-1,999
hours
2,000-2,099
hours
2,100-2,199
hours
2,200 or
more hours
Overall 30.4 24.9 18.7 26.0 2,058 2,068 680
By Size of Firm (# of lawyers)
50 or fewer 51.9 27.8 12.7 7.6 1,950 1,963 79
51-100 51.1 25.6 12.2 11.1 1,986 1,984 90
101-250 31.7 36.0 22.6 9.8 2,011 2,023 164
251-500 18.5 23.8 24.4 33.3 2,097 2,112 168
501-700 22.0 32.2 20.3 25.4 2,101 2,119 59
701+ 20.0 5.0 13.3 61.7 2,174 2,172 120

Note: The number of offices shown in the last column is the number reporting a figure for 2007.The number reporting a figure for 2006 is slightly smaller.
Source: 2008-2009 NALP Directory of Legal Employers

Table 2. Average Billable Hours Worked in 2007

Firm size Percent Reporting: Average
in 2006
Average
in 2007
# of offices
reporting
1,000-1,799
hours
1,800-1,850
hours
1,851-1,950
hours
1,951 or more
hours
Overall 27.5 32.5 23.8 16.2 1,838 1,838 766
By Size of Firm (# of lawyers)
50 or fewer 37.8 22.2 18.9 21.1 1,806 1,814 90
51-100 32.3 31.3 17.2 19.2 1,832 1,831 99
101-250 29.9 33.0 24.7 12.4 1,829 1,831 194
251-500 17.8 29.7 39.5 13.0 1,863 1,858 185
501-700 27.0 48.6 8.1 16.2 1,808 1,826 74
701+ 27.4 34.7 16.9 21.0 1,863 1,847 124

Note: The number of offices shown in the last column is the number reporting a figure for 2007. The number reporting a figure for 2006 is slightly smaller.
Source: 2008-2009 NALP Directory of Legal Employers

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 16.2 18.6 24.6 19.2 12.1 1,888 1,143
By Size of Firm (# of lawyers)
50 or fewer 30.8 23.1 9.9 5.5 6.6 1,814 91
51-100 38.9 19.1 15.3 4.6 8.4 1,847 131
101-250 19.3 28.3 23.0 13.1 4.1 1,864 244
251-500 9.1 17.8 38.4 18.2 10.4 1,904 297
501-700 14.3 9.5 22.0 39.3 3.6 1,908 168
701+ 3.8 13.7 21.2 26.4 34.9 1,938 212

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.
Source: 2008-2009 NALP Directory of Legal Employers

Table 4. Is Billable Hours Credit Given for Pro Bono Work?

Firm size Yes Case-by-case No # of offices
reporting
Overall 79.2 6.7 14.1 1,420
By Size of Firm (# of lawyers)
50 or fewer 45.7 12.8 41.5 94
51-100 65.6 8.6 25.8 128
101-250 63.1 7.3 29.6 287
251-500 84.4 10.0 5.6 321
501-700 87.6 12.4 194
701+ 94.9 4.8 0.3 396

Source: 2008-2009 NALP Directory of Legal Employers

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

Firm size Yes Case-by-case No # of offices
reporting
Overall 42.2 9.3 48.5 1,126
By Size of Firm (# of lawyers)
50 or fewer 16.3 32.7 51.0 49
51-100 39.8 20.5 39.8 88
101-250 56.0 9.2 34.8 184
251-500 52.9 5.8 41.2 274
501-700 43.2 3.7 53.1 162
701+ 30.9 8.7 60.4 369

Note: Figures are based on 1,126 offices/firms which reported that billable hour credit is given for pro bono work (either yes or case-by-case) and which also reported whether or not there is a maximum amount that will be credited.
Source: 2008-2009 NALP Directory of Legal Employers

Table 6. Maximum Number of Pro Bono Hours that May be Counted as Billable Hours Requirements per Year

Firm size Percent Reporting: Average # of
hours credited
# of Offices
Reporting
25 hours 50 hours 60 hours 100 hours
Overall 5.0 50.2 7.5 19.7 69 442
By Size of Firm (# of lawyers)
50 or fewer 14.3 71.4 14.3 54 7
51-100 2.9 32.4 44.1 77 34
101-250 3.2 59.1 2.2 8.6 65 93
251-500 11.8 64.6 6.3 59 144
501-700 47.4 5.3 35.1 67 57
701+ 29.0 26.2 31.8 86 107

Note: Percentages do not add to 100 because not all reported hours figures are shown. However, no other hours figure accounted for more than 4% of responses. Figures are based on 442 offices/firms that reported setting a maximum number of pro bono hours which can be credited towards billable hours and that also reported the maximum.
Source: 2008-2009 NALP Directory of Legal Employers

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

Firm size Yes Case-by-case No # of offices
reporting
Overall 77.4 8.0 14.5 1,244
By Size of Firm (# of lawyers)
50 or fewer 40.3 25.8 33.9 62
51-100 56.2 19.0 24.8 105
101-250 64.5 6.5 29.0 231
251-500 80.6 9.9 9.5 294
501-700 85.4 0.6 14.0 178
701+ 91.2 5.1 3.7 374

Source: 2008-2009 NALP Directory of Legal Employers

Table 8. Is There a Minimum Number of Pro Bono Hours Encouraged?

Firm size Yes No # of offices
reporting
Overall 56.8 43.2 1,103
By Size of Firm (# of lawyers)
50 or fewer 8.5 91.5 59
51-100 25.8 74.2 93
101-250 42.6 57.4 188
251-500 69.3 30.7 251
501-700 71.9 28.1 160
701+ 64.8 35.2 352

Source: 2008-2009 NALP Directory of Legal Employers

Table 9. Number of Pro Bono Hours that Are Encouraged

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
Overall 13.9 12.0 4.9 2.4 46.8 7.3 5.4 47 577
By Size of Firm (# of lawyers)
100 or fewer 3.8 88.5 48 26
101-250 14.3 3.2 15.9 3.2 44.4 1.6 3.2 50 63
251-500 11.3 14.3 6.0 50.6 0.6 6.5 50 168
501-700 10.9 11.8 0.9 39.1 10.9 13.6 52 110
701+ 18.6 14.3 3.8 5.2 43.3 13.3 1.4 42 210

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 1.9% of responses. Figures are based on 577 offices/ firms which reported encouraging a minimum number of probono hours, and which also reported that number.
Source: 2008-2009 NALP Directory of Legal Employers

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