A fifth year associate. I have never met my billable hours. Is that weird?

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I wouldn’t feel bad under the circumstances. But let me tell you my horror story. I was basically fired from a small firm (two other attorneys) for not meeting billables when there was not enough work to go around. My billing requirement was already super low, but they didn’t want to pay for a paralegal or legal assistant, so that was basically my job. And they strictly controlled how much I could bill clients for that kind of work. (Couldn’t bill for many of my emails; only a .1 for many tasks that were really a .2 or a .3) It was ridiculous. They also strictly controlled how much I could bill clients for actual legal work. One of the partners told me that unless I was researching a really novel issue, I wasn’t allowed to bill for research “because I’m an attorney and should know the answers”. It was such a struggle. It was a new firm which obviously wanted to charge clients something they could afford. But still, I barely did anything substantive, there was very little work, and to add insult to injury, I was fired for this. (I know have a much better, much higher paying job at a firm with plenty of work, real mentorship, lots of collaboration
—it’s great)

So to answer your question, don’t feel bad. But the situation depends on the vibe of the firm.

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Borderline unethical

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I thought this was weird until I found out that most of the associates in my office are billing like 100-150 hrs/mo, sometimes under 100. I'm down the hall doing 200+/mo. They don't get the automatic or discretionary bonus and work a lot less. I guess it's a trade?

But the associates who made partner all had like 2300-2500 hrs a couple of years in a row so I think if you want partner you need to do the 150-200/mo you need to hit the bonus. I didn't start here but this is what I think I've learned in 4 years of being a big law associate.

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Precisely

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How do I be you

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I don’t get it - do you not have enough work? I far exceed my billables and have never once even come close to meeting them, but I’m also extremely busy all the time and have a lot of work.

My goal is to never hit my billables for 3 years, take 3 weeks vacation per year, and then go in house where the partners beg me to eat lunch with them. Someone tell me this is possible.

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You might have to stay an extra year or two, but totally possible

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I’m a sixth year who’s only done it once

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Not big law. Mid-size in NYC doing legal malpractice and employment defense litigation.

Anyone here in biglaw? Curious because I'm a second year who isn't super motivated to meet them.

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A3, are you me?

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8th year here. 🙋‍♂️

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What group?

Normal for the non-litigation associates in my firm.

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I love you

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No. But it may a sign that Big Law isn’t for you.

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The real question here is what is your billable target

Same. I thought this would be the year, but it's not looking good. It really depends on the reason and whether it's typical at your firm. Most people did not make hours at my first firm because there wasn't enough work. After I lateraled, things just kept getting in the way, including covid and a maternity leave.

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A12, I am in a completly unexpected FMLA situation, so basically giving up on this year. Everyone I work for has been really understanding. I had more than enough work after returning from maternity leave, but I had no choice other than to get extensions and push stuff off my plate in light of the situation. At least at my firm, management seems to be very understanding when family issues arise. You just can't control when things happen sometimes.

I was just at a small firm (less than 10 attys) and all attys including the owner basically never hit billables in the 3 years I was there. Just didn't have enough work to go around.

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I’m a 7th year who’s never made their hours. Also in discussions over whether I should go straight for partner or become counsel first. So I don’t think it’s the be all end all

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What group are you in?

No. I think I hit hours once (maybe?) before accepting my current role.

I have zero interest in helping my outside attorneys hit their billables. I avoid firms that overwork associates or prioritize hours over substance. I hire flat rate whenever possible. The market model needs to change.

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This is so true! When I see what some of my peers bill I’m shocked. Death to the billable hour. It’s bad for clients and associates. There are other ways to evaluate associates rather than an arbitrary number which we all know can be abused. I do understand the need for an invoice to client that shows the breakdown of what the client was billed for but I don’t think that should be the end all be all of associate evaluation.

Is it cause they cut you so much? Sounds odd. But maybe its because the overlords at your firm set a bar the associates cannot me resulting in less bonuses. Just a guess.

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Meet*

Your hours don’t matter until you’re up for partner. If you want partner track consider reaching out to partners to build your network in-firm and generate more work for yourself so you can start hitting minimum hours or more. Otherwise you are unlikely to make partner (which is totally fine, obv) if you’re not interested).

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Role model!

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Yes

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Nothing don’t overthink it. I’m sure your firm is continuing to hire despite lack of need because the market for associates is so bad. They’re basically hedging that they’ll lose someone by over staffing and have to spread out the work, which results in nobody making the hours. If this has gone on for 5 years and you’ve not been fired yet they like you. Anecdotally I know MANY partners who never hit their hours before being made partner (AmLaw200 firm). You’re doing everything right.

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It’s not a good habit if you want to advance in the firm

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I don’t ever say no to work. There isn’t just enough work. Partners keep the work to themselves. I actively look for work. What else I am supposed to do?

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Yes

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Getting over heartbreak and having a full time job is torture lol. My boyfriend and I just broke up after almost a year of being together. It was such a beautiful relationship but ultimately he just didn’t love me. I love him so much. My mind knows that I deserve reciprocal love and I’m worthy, but I feel physically ill. My body hurts, my stomach is in knots, my head hurts. How is it that I have to mend a broken heart but also meet my billable hours lmao

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