Chargeable hours at law firms declined in the UK during 2005-2006

Here’s a man bites dog story from LSI newsletter: Ed. 33 – Dec. 2006. “Despite the ever increasing pay packages of many lawyers and a continuing growth in big firm profits, it seems that legal professionals may not be working as hard as they have been. According to a survey of 57 of the top 100 UK firms by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the number of average chargeable hours worked by assistants [US: associates] fell by 3 per cent between 2005 and 2006.” (See my posts of Feb. 16, 2006 about net income per partner; Oct. 20, 2005 on whether to ask for data on billable hours; Nov. 2, 2006 on the worrisome aspects of firms with goals of 2,000+ hours; and Nov. 22, 2006 about the possibility that billable hour totals are exaggerated.).

Fewer hours logged did not improve job satisfaction. “Yet despite the drop in hours and increases in reward, attrition rates remained high. Over 40 per cent of the top 25 firms admitted to losing as many as a quarter of their 3-5 year pqe [post qualification experience] people every year.” High billable hour expectations and high turnover both cost law departments dearly.

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