Is 1,850 chargeable hours a year a reasonable estimate for in-house counsel?

The Project for Attorney Retention (PAR), an initiative of the Program of Worklife Law at American University’s Washington College of Law, published a lengthy report in December 2003 (10 Wm. & Mary J. of Women & L. 367 (Spring 2004)). The authors wrote that “the vast majority of attorneys reported that full-time attorneys at their corporations are generally in their offices between forty-five and fifty hours most weeks.” (pg. 390)

If we take the mid-range (47.5 hours a week) and subtract the four weeks for vacation and two weeks for holidays and another week of absence for sickness or other reasons, that leaves 45 weeks at 47.5 hours per week, or 2,138 office hours per year. Some of that time would not count as chargeable to clients, such as time spent recruiting, or being evaluated, or during continuing legal education. Perhaps one out of ten hours would not be chargeable if the attorney were in a law firm? If we subtract 10 percent (214 hours) from the 2,138 estimated above, that leaves 1,923 hours.

Surveys and benchmarking studies have for years used 1,850 chargeable hours a year for purposes of calculating the fully-loaded cost of lawyers per chargeable hour. For my money, that rule of thumb stands the challenge of the somewhat higher figure deducible as above from the PAR report.

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