REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Proposed cap on lawyer hours a tough sell in legal business boom

(Reuters) – Is capping annual billable hours at 1,800 a key to bettering lawyer well-being, or a pie-in-the sky concept when giant regulation corporations are straining to fulfill demand and showering associates with unprecedented pay?

It’s each, say legal trade consultants.

Legislation agency and lawyer wellness consultants applauded a new report from a New York State Bar Affiliation job pressure that highlighted how heavy workloads can hurt lawyer psychological well being, with lack of downtime cited as a prime stressor.

However the job pressure’s suggestion that legal employers cap legal professionals’ billable hours at 1,800 a 12 months isn’t sensible for many huge company corporations, they stated.

“I think an 1,800-billable-hours cap is going to be a challenge,” stated Vertex Advisors Group founder Robert Kamins, who advises regulation corporations on administration points. “Law firm profitability and compensation is largely driven by hours worked.”

And there is loads of work to go round. A Wells Fargo Legal Specialty Group survey of the 200 highest-grossing U.S. regulation corporations discovered that demand, charges, and productiveness have been every up 6% in the primary half of 2021. A record-breaking boom in world merger exercise has stored company practices additional busy.

It is also arduous to justify capping hours after many prime corporations elevated beginning affiliate salaries this summer time and are handing out larger-than-ever affiliate bonuses, stated Lisa Smith of regulation agency consultancy Fairfax Associates.

“For firms paying first-year associates $205,000 and seventh and eight-year associates getting bonuses in the neighborhood of $400,000 to $500,000, is a 40-hour work week realistic? Probably not,” Smith stated.

Most giant corporations preserve bonus targets of 1,850 to 2,000 billable hours. But it surely’s common for high-performing associates to invoice 2,200 or extra hours, consultants say.

“The profession has created this expectation, on the part of clients, that lawyers are available 24/7,” said Kathryn Grant Madigan, a partner at New York firm Levene Gouldin & Thompson who examined employers’ roles in attorney well-being as part of the bar’s task force. “That’s not sustainable over the long run.”

Different job pressure suggestions, like encouraging legal professionals to make use of up trip time and letting them truly unplug when they’re away, are extra possible than capping hours, Smith stated.

Patrick Krill, an lawyer who counsels regulation corporations on dependancy and well-being points, agreed that an 1,800-hour cap could also be unrealistic now. However he stated the proposal may assist catalyze future change.

“Especially if other jurisdictions follow suit, I could see this idea gaining more traction, or at least encouraging a more honest and searching discussion about our culture of overwork,” he stated.

Learn extra:

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