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Timekeepers other than partners, associates and paralegals

Any law department with electronic billing can break down its invoices by timekeeper level. The proliferation of timekeeping levels is remarkable.

The bare minimums of levels are in law firms that have partners, associates, and paralegals (or legal assistants) (See my post of June 7, 2006 on the difference between paralegal and legal assistant.). More elaborate gradations of timekeeper levels include senior associates, non-equity partners, and litigation support personnel.

Even beyond those additional timekeeper distinctions are summer associates, docketing clerks, senior partners, and several other mutations such as project managers (See my post of Aug. 22, 2006 for more on this role.).

Should this spread of timekeeper categories matter to law departments? Absolutely, if a person moves to a higher level and for that reason alone their billing rate jumps more than some annual adjustment amount, then law departments care if there are many rungs on the ladder. Rungs costs them more.

Law departments also care because the finer gradations tell them how the law firm views the importance of matters. Look at the level of professionals they assign to the department’s matters. Fine distinctions between levels tell more about staffing than if only the original three categories are used (See my post of Sept. 5, 2005 about non-equity partners.).