Administrative time in-house squeezing out substantive lawyering time?

An article in Law Firm Inc. (Vol. 3, Sept./Oct. 2005 at 18) by the General Counsel of ACC (Susan Hackett) dropped in a provocative sentence.

“Our surveys suggest that in-house counsel are increasingly concerned about the amount of time they spend on their management duties (relative to the time they are able to spend cultivating their own substantive practice experience.”) (See my post of Sept. 25, 2005 on presumed 1,850 chargeable hours per year.)

I have not heard this complaint, nor seen any support for it in surveys. More fundamentally, I doubt it is true.

Senior lawyers in large departments may provide much value to their employers through being effective managers, getting the most from those who report to them. Second, the company is not paying its employee lawyers to “cultivate their substantive practice experience.” They are paid to help the company reach its goals, and if managing people gets to that end result, who cares if their legal acumen frays a bit. Finally, it may be that a rising tide of hours lifts all boats, management and substantive practice hours, but that is to be expected. Given the generally under-managed state of most law departments and increasing workloads, I would be surprised to find that disproportionately more time has been going to running the departments.

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