{ "media_type": "text", "post_content": "Genuine question: why do people bill over 2100 in this market? I can see how wanting to be a “good associate” could get you to agree to go slightly above your hours requirement, but don’t understand how people end up billing 2500+ hours… do you really think you’d get fired if you said no to more work? Is someone legitimately forcing you to work that much? Don’t see how extra bonuses are worth it either.", "post_id": "61ea058817273e003078b78a", "reply_count": 48, "vote_count": 25, "bowl_id": "5df70ed2f7169f002b172d3f", "bowl_name": "Big Law", "feed_type": "bowl" }

Genuine question: why do people bill over 2100 in this market? I can see how wanting to be a “good associate” could get you to agree to go slightly above your hours requirement, but don’t understand how people end up billing 2500+ hours… do you really think you’d get fired if you said no to more work? Is someone legitimately forcing you to work that much? Don’t see how extra bonuses are worth it either.

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As one of the people constantly complaining in this bowl about hours (as OP put it somewhere in the comments) I’ll give a few reasons: 1. There’s no one else to do the work. The whole team is swamped and as long as I’m here, I’m not going to let my colleagues drown more than they have to. 2. Sometimes it’s because I actually like what I do and reach out to a partner when I hear about an interesting deal they’re on. The “interesting” deals tend to be the most unpredictable and you may end up with way more work than you expected. 3. For some reason you can’t say no to the partner who asks (maybe they are a potential mentor, or someone who well known in the industry and you don’t want to give up the chance to work with them, or they are the practice group leader, or some other reason). 4. Someone asks you to do a “discrete task” and they promise promise promise that it’s truly a discrete task this time and you say yes against your better judgment and… it turns into something much bigger. I’m never trying to overload myself, but it happens.

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One minute they ask you to just do simple dd, next minute, before you know it, you’re now closing the deal by yourself. It’s been all hands-on-deck in this market for a while now, things are completely out of our hands and it’s not a matter of managing time or setting boundaries anymore.

I say this (what OP said re “just say no you won’t get fired”) a lot in the bowl actually when people seem on the brink of just quitting with no job or lateraling thoughtlessly just to get a few weeks off because they think that’s the only way to get a real vacation. But a few reasons I can think of (varies by associate of course) why folks bill more and are sometimes true for me: - you don’t want to just not be fired. You want to be the best you can be/you can’t handle the idea of disappointing yourself/your mom/your client/your favorite senior/your favorite partner etc. - you are senior and close to partnership and you feel the need to keep on gunning till you get it. - All your law school classmates seem to be getting promoted this year but you still haven’t been. 😭 is that even what you want anymore?? Unclear but they all have it, why don’t you?! - sunk cost fallacy - You’ve put in all this hard work for the last 20-30 years (idk about y’all but I had the overachieving illness in kindergarten I’m pretty sure) and what was it all for if you just give up now? - work is all you have. It’s not that you don’t want to have a spouse/kids etc but it’s not like quitting your biglaw job means you automatically get that stuff. So may as well keep gunning because this is what you do have and are good at. See also inertia, depression. - you really are trying hard to say no but partners twist your arm and you can’t bring yourself to just straight up not do it when they’ve just coolly announced to the client “counsel is copied here and will handle”. - Or better yet, clients just asking directly, much harder to say no to when you’re trying to develop your own client relationships and know you’ll never get promoted without them (and it’s a crapshoot even with them) - work is unpredictable even with the best of intentions, dead deals come back, “urgent” post closing nonsense pops up suddenly, closing gets pushed back a week and that seems like it should make life easier but your midlevel who was handling everything is now out on scheduled vacation so you’re trying to figure out wtf was going on so you can close without him - you bill a 40 hour week and every partner comes knocking because they think you have capacity (since everyone else is billing 50-60). You know you can technically say no but saying no over and over is uncomfortable, maybe it’s better to just be at 45-50 and they’ll stop asking so much without thinking you’re a slacker - you genuinely enjoy the work - you genuinely enjoy your coworkers and/or clients and want to help them. I’m not going to not cover for my junior associate/friend who has to take her baby to the hospital or my partner mentor who’s had my back for years - your identity/self worth is very tied up with being an excellent attorney

likesmart

C1 you are spot on when clients reach out directly to associates forget about saying no

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To be honest, it just kind of happens. You get staffed on deal A and B in February, but deal A goes pencils down shortly after so you agree to work on deal C. Then 3 weeks later deal A comes back, and you’re already staffed on it, so now you’re staffed on deals A, B and C. While you could have turned down deal C if deal A never died, it’s not easy to turn down deal A once it comes back.

likesmart

For tax, you are on 15 deals at once, but the hours you spend can range anywhere from 0.5 (like a 10-K tax section markup) to 100 (all of tax structuring & docs for a $5b buyside LBO PE deal), and sometimes it’s hard to know how much you’ll spend for each, so you end up taking a lot of work.

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“If you said no tomorrow, there’d be 10 more lawyers to take your place, they just wouldn’t come on the bus.”

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You are confusing short term needs with long term needs. This isn’t the first hot legal market in the last 30 years. Until law firms start losing clients over staffing, they won’t actually care.

Childhood trauma resulting in poor boundary setting and an overdeveloped sense of responsibility - Former therapist 👍

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We’ve lost too many bodies, there is nowhere for the work to go

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It’s Stockholm syndrome esque, but If all my colleagues are drowning and I do the minimum, I’d feel like an ass

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Why do ppl bill over 1900 if they don't have to? Lol

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I’m curious too. I never billed over 2100 billable in a year my entire career so far. The key is enjoying any small lulls in work to the fullest.

likefunny

Same philosophy here👏🏻

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Lucky enough to work with friends who are senior to me, working at least as much as me and who would be in a tough spot if I said no to more.

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This is a good reason! If you care about those people and they care about you, it makes sense to be in the trenches together.

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So I did it last year because of particular matters that I was on. But the partners always added more associates because they had no idea it would be that screwy either. Most of the work still fell on me being the person who was around the longest. But I have asked this question of the extreme high billers who were operating on little sleep everyday and the answer was usually to avoid being chastised. And I said well if all of you just slept or even some of you they would be forced to hire more people. Like they can’t fire someone who they also need to work every waking moment.

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Exactly! I think if more people set better boundaries expectations might shift. You could still be a great attorney and teammate billing at 1950 if the norm was different

A lot of times, how much you bill isn't up to you. A deal could change requiring a lot more work or the nature of a deal could be inherently hours heavy, and you could've said yes to it when you were slow on other things

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I never, other than when first starting out and trying to have a goal in mind, ever thought along the lines of working a specific volume per time period or pacing myself on the basis of hours. I made myself useful, never turned down anything, and did what was there. Not saying everyone has to do that. I just can’t even imagine thinking along the lines of “okay, I will put in 7.5 billables each day this week” or anything like that. BTW, it may not always be “this market” as referenced in the OP. I think there are some structural forces that cut against mass layoffs or vast oversupply of associate candidates in biglaw as compared to a decade ago, but the market can change quickly and become much more of a buyer’s market.

If it helps, my approach (and I’m guessing a lot of people’s approach) is also about getting done what needs to be done, but I’ve billed 20 hours in a 24 hour period multiple times before because that’s what I felt like was “needed” and it’s just SO unhealthy and makes me feel awful (and be inefficient/unproductive) for weeks after. It’s not like the days after the 20 hour day tend to be slow days I can recover either. (Although the week after 20, the 12-14 hour days feel relatively easy.) I try and stop at 7-8 a day when tasks aren’t super urgent to force some control on myself because there’s always (right now - I’ve been through a few recessions) more work that can expand to fill the time available and no partner is going to come tell me to stop destroying myself. I don’t think anyone (other than a few bad apples who aren’t going to last long) is actively saying to themselves “oh there’s a super urgent task due yesterday I haven’t done but I put in my 7.5 so I’m clocking out”. I do agree that associates need some perspective about how hard it was to even get a biglaw job even with top credentials during, e.g., Great Recession, and keep in mind this hot market will not last forever. The number of people I see posting about how they’ll lateral every year “for the signing bonus”… 🤦🏽‍♀️ 😂

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