Billable Hour Douchebags Strike Again


How long will the legal community have to suffer through the collective whining of delusional, over-entitled douchebags? Seems the good kids over at Stanford Law School’s Building a Better Legal Profession, the self-proclaimed “national grassroots movement” that demands Big Firms cut billable hour requirements to improve associates’ lifestyles are at it again.

This time, at least, the Stanford kids weren’t directly responsible for the whining, but somewhat more terrifyingly, their very existence was cited to support a cause they hold near and dear: flex time in the workplace—the topic of a roundtable discussion recently held in the New York offices of Davis Polk & Wardwell.

Panelists at the roundtable emphasized that “now, more than ever, law firms must begin offering more flexible work schedules to its [sic] lawyers,” advocating that Big Firms “completely overhaul their promotion structures, create multiple paths to partnership, and do away with the billable hour as a measurement of achievement.”

Among those voicing their opinions was Bryan Townsend, a 3L summer associate at Davis Polk. “These issues apply to anybody,” Townsend explained deftly, noting that he came to watch the panel because “work-life balance will figure into his choice of employers.”

The panel still failed to address the bigger question: Why the hell are these jackass law students who’ve never worked a day in their lives as real lawyers demanding anything? How long are we going to deal with this incessant whining from people who have no idea what they’re talking about—and worse yet, have never even billed an honest hour? Who cares what they want or what they think?

And for those actual Big Firm lawyers out there still ringing the bell for working fewer hours while still being considered for partnership track: Good luck. You might as well just walk up and down the hallways in a clown suit. You have just as good a chance of making equity partner that way. (And if you don’t think so, just call all those lawyers who made equity partner at Big Firms who didn’t bill a ton of hours. When you get one on the phone, give us a call.)

No one’s saying that working in a Big Firm is a dream, but no one’s forcing you to work in one, either. If you don’t like working round the clock, don’t do it. If you don’t like getting hit, don’t play pro football.

Just remember, when the fundamental revenue driver of a profession is billing hours, you can be sure of one thing: Law firms will always try to increase hours, not decrease them.

But keep living the dream. And by all means, keep having meetings to talk about something that will never change—sounds like a good use of the time you’re so afraid to bill.

Bitter Staff is a collection of current and former editors, contributors, and various other lawyers who have written for Bitter Lawyer over the years. Posts include interviews, contests, and other general lawyerly and bitter content.

18 Comments

  1. no name

    July 21, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    ouch – they just got served

  2. Lalee G.

    July 24, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Bless their little hearts, but as a Stanford Law alum, I have to say that the Building a Better Legal Profession kids make me nervous that people will view the school as a haven for classic Gen Y listless whiners.

  3. richard

    July 24, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    wouldn’t worry too much about the school’s rep.  but yes, they’re definitely a bunch of listless whiner.  might be better for them to actually work at firms before trying to fix them.  It’s like some hating a movie without actually seeing it.

  4. Scott

    August 4, 2008 at 10:34 am

    I’d like to meet a lawyer who has billed an “honest” hour.

  5. [sic]

    August 4, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    what typo deserves a sic in that sentence in the third paragraph?

  6. t

    August 6, 2008 at 4:37 am

    I didn’t go to stanford, and I’m wrapping up my first year as an associate.  I wouldn’t mind billable hour requirements being done away with.

  7. Anon

    August 7, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    The problems in firms are the same problems employees face working for any big corporation/employer.  If you have any prior work experience beyond McDonald’s during the summer between undergrad and law school, this is a fact you should be able to recognize.  I don’t blame them for suggesting/demanding changes in the work place of their future employer.  If they do succeed in changing the structure all you whiny elitist bitches will probably be happier for it.

  8. Greeny

    August 8, 2008 at 5:11 am

    If associates bill less, then either the partners or associates have to take a hit in compensation.  During my second year of law school, I split between a midwest firm and NYC firm.  If I wanted less hours, it meant less money and vica versa. 
    If you want to make over $200,000 a year.  Work the hours.  If you are so bent on “life style” stay out of the big dog firms.  You could still practice law for 50 or less hours a week and make some money at some other places.

  9. SuperTemp

    August 9, 2008 at 10:24 am

    Associates billing less just means one of two things: partners will have to bill more and hence clients are charged more—which rarely goes over well—or more and more junior associate work gets dumped on paralegals who have lower billing rates, and compensated less.  But I guess this website is called “bitterlawyer” and not “bitterpara.”

  10. LedRush

    August 16, 2008 at 2:29 am

    What’s the point of this rant?  People want the option to work less for less money and opportunities.  That’s kinda easy to understand, no?

  11. PSMH

    August 18, 2008 at 7:27 am

    [sic], the paragraph said “its,” which is singular possessive, but it was referring to law firms (plural).

  12. Sanjay

    August 19, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Love it or Leave it? Great analysis. Firms that offer more flextime will increase retention and will pay prorated to cover increased overhead and decreased revenue per associate. They also get to keep more female lawyers and compete for talent on a whole different axis. But don’t let rationality get in the way of a good rant about them darn youngin’s today and walking 5 miles in the snow both ways.

  13. YrNextBestAsst

    August 27, 2008 at 11:15 am

    Heck! Flex everyone and the world would be a happier place…i guess, except for the shrinks whose clientelle would diminish because the “overworked, underpaid” would cease to exist! Im off to change my profession to become a shrink. I see a bright and happy future in it.

  14. Realist

    August 27, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    You are an idiot and a tool of the machine.  Law schools pull young altruists in with promise of the opportunity to be Erin Brochavich with a law degree, or an adept Matlock, quickly pulling a curtain in front of the $150,000 to $200,000 they will incur in debt by touting Big Law salaries that can pay that kind of thing down in just a few years.  Sure you can go to the P.D. or the D.A. in a few years!  Sure you’ll have the experience necessary to do anything other than color-code documents or carry lit bags to court!  Just sign right here.  In blood.

    Point – it is not a choice to work at Big Law; it is a consequence of law school sans trust fund.

  15. Anon

    September 8, 2008 at 11:36 am

    Realist, what a wanker.  Everything in life is a choice.  Including law school.  Couldn’t do the math before you went in?  Hmmm….

  16. molawyer83

    November 17, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    As a brand new lawyer, I hate that these whiny a-holes are giving my generation a bad name.  I knew going in that for several years I would be putting in 80-or-so hours a week and doing everyone else’s crap work, and that’s fine with me.  My complaint is not being able to FIND a job in the first place!  I never thought it would take so long… but rest assured, once I have found it I will not be bitching about needing more flex time.

  17. Nemesis

    January 17, 2009 at 2:59 am

    My friend just recently graduated law school and got a job at a Big Firm. When I asked him how it was going, he said, “I love the work I’m doing, I just wish I could do 2/3 of the work for 2/3 of the pay.” This sums up this entire issue. What’s wrong with people wanting more free time to spend with family? I would understand the rant if lawyers had other options, but they don’t. I don’t like this all-or-nothing concept that seems to exist in the legal field, where new lawyers either have to get paid six digits to work 80 hour work weeks, or get paid squat to work 40 hour work weeks. Where’s the 55 hour work week for 90K?

  18. kim

    July 18, 2011 at 2:36 am

    Where’s the 55 hour work week for 90K? Ill tell you where: smaller firm, medium sized city, and depends on the practice area. I have worked big firm, small firm, public sector, and federal courts. My current firm is 10 attorneys, well established, and really care about work-life balance. The billable hour requirement is only 130 a month, and I make 95K. The bonus structure is handsome too – you can expect between 5-10K a year just for doing good work and meeting your billables. Anything over 130 a month – based on a six month average – entitles you to more. And yes, I also get fully paid health, dental, gym membership, bar dues, etc….and a contributory 401K. The handsome pay and benefits are most likely due to our area of practice – employment law – which is most definitely recession proof.

    My point: the firms that offer a work-life balance and great pay are out there and they are plentiful – but it takes a lot of hard work to network and find the diamonds in the rough….but you can find them.

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