Firm Decides To Put Billable Hours On Hold

Deven Desai

Deven Desai is an associate professor of law and ethics at the Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology. He was also the first, and to date, only Academic Research Counsel at Google, Inc., and a Visiting Fellow at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy. He is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley and the Yale Law School. Professor Desai’s scholarship examines how business interests, new technology, and economic theories shape privacy and intellectual property law and where those arguments explain productivity or where they fail to capture society’s interest in the free flow of information and development. His work has appeared in leading law reviews and journals including the Georgetown Law Journal, Minnesota Law Review, Notre Dame Law Review, Wisconsin Law Review, and U.C. Davis Law Review.

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2 Responses

  1. Joe says:

    My question is who is doing the billable work that first years are no longer doing? If the work is being pushed off to someone else, then client bills will go up (unless second and third years are much more efficient, which I doubt). But if nobody is doing the extra work, doesn’t that mean that first years were just doing superfluous work in the first place?

  2. Deven says:

    Good question. One of the standard stories told is that firms write off much of the work first year associates do because of the training issue. I doubt that the story is true but as I have never managed a bill going out to the client, I don’t know for certain. Still, I think the idea is that first years would now be able to do the work they would do in any event but that would not be billed to the client (or would be billed but the client may object). In theory a more senior associate (say a third to fifth year associate) would cost more per hour but would require less supervision (less partner billed hours), require less time, and require less revision of writing (reduced senior associate or partner billing again).

    I suppose another way of putting it is yes, clients might argue that first year associate work is almost superfluous or at least quite inefficient. As such they might rather see a more expensive biller doing work faster than a junior person having to take many more hours to do the work because they are learning. Of course this view depends on the work at issue. In addition, clients’ seemed to be more upset about Westlaw or Lexis charges than reasonable because of the sticker shock. The odd part was that using the online services often was more efficient than pulling the directories; not always but often.