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Should you ask for the total billable hours of lawyers working on your matters?

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.

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One response to “Should you ask for the total billable hours of lawyers working on your matters?”

  1. Patrick Lamb says:

    I think this is a great idea. In addition to the situation you describe, imagine a situation where the lawyer billed 2,000 hours to you, but 3,000 hours total. Might you imagine that some of those hours billed to you are at best inefficient? The information is certainly not dispositive under any circumstance, but it could raise some issues that are worth reviewing further. Are you aware of any clients that are seeking this information or any firms that provide it voluntarily?