If law firms are chronically over-staffed, why aren’t they more amenable to AFAs?

“Most large law firms have far more lawyers than the availability of client work requires.” Ed Wesemann in the Edge International Communique asserts this.

Wesemann explains that “This is, in part, driven by the law school hiring programs that require firms to predict their staffing needs almost two years in advance. But an equal culprit is the fear by most law firms of having a client come to their door with an engagement and not having the people to do the work. New business is so difficult to obtain that, for many lawyers, the fear of not being able to perform it in an acceptable manner causes the firm to err on the side of excess capacity.” If Wesemann has correctly identified systemic over-staffing, it would seem logical for partners to more willingly explore alternative billing arrangements to keep the surplus labor at least somewhat occupied. Over-staffing breeds over-billing, law department managers should worry, because associates hungry for chargeability will likely rack up hours if given the opportunity.

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