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An exaggerated notion of law-firm chargeable hours

One often hears of law firms and their expectations of 2,000+ chargeable hours per year (See my post of Nov. 2, 2006 on the prevalence of this widely-circulated figure.). Such goals concern law departments because they suspect the efforts of associates to achieve that Herculean feat leads to lower quality and higher bills (See my post of Oct. 20, 2005 on these worries.). In fact, the vaunted metric may be a myth.

Contrary to the wide-spread assumption, data from a recent survey shows that annual billable hours in major law firms actually run around the 1,800 to 1,900 hour mark. Eerily, that is the same estimate used for chargeable hours in law departments (See my post of Sept. 25, 2005 on this as a standard for internal costs per hour.). That the work pace in-house is slower than outside may then also be a myth.