That law firms are demanding more billable hours from their associates has become received truth. Whether law departments are paying more because the firms they use have pressured their lawyers to bill with a heavier hand remains unclear.
Perhaps law departments should ask their key law firms to state at year’s end the total hours billed by each lawyer who did a significant amount of work for the department. If it got that data, could it legitimately conclude anything useful?
What if the ten lawyers who charged the department the most hours all billed more than 2,000 hours? That killing pace doesn’t necessarily dilute the quality of the hours they billed the department or suggest padding. After all, busy lawyers are those thought well of by partners. Still, it might cause a law department to wonder about bench-strength, delegation, burnout, and team effectiveness at the firm.