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How much time do in-house attorneys waste in a typical day?

The Gallup Organization conducted a large survey in August, 2007, which American Magazine thereafter compiled. Parts of that compilation are in the business section of the NY Times, Feb. 23, 2008. “When asked how much time their colleagues waste during the day, the mean number reported was 90 minutes. When asked how much time they waste, respondents said one hour.”

Those are disturbing estimates if anything close to them were to be uncovered in law departments. What “wasted time” is was not defined, but I will treat it like obscenity: we all are sure we know it when we see it. I assume it does not refer to administrative obligations of corporate attorneys since recruiting, reviewing bills, preparing status reports and similar tasks are part of the job. Wasted time means goofing off, slacking, completely unproductive time (See my post of Nov. 9, 2006: skiving at work.).

Data is nonexistent on wasted time by in-house lawyers, perhaps because it would be a waste of time to ask them. If, however, the Gallup data were true for them, we will need to redefine one very useful metric. No longer will we refer to fully-loaded costs per lawyer hour. Instead, we will need fully-loaded costs per non-wasted lawyer hour. To lop off one hour of productive time a day from the standard annual estimate of 1,850 hours of time deemed chargeable (See my post of May 16, 2006: what we mean by “chargeable.”), drives up the average cost to a company significantly.

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