A new study from Altman Weil confirms something many of us had already suspected: law firm partners feel like they are working harder than ever because they are. Average billable hours for law firm partners increased 11.4% between 1984 and 2001, from 1,531 in 1984 to 1,706 in 2001. Partners in some law firms are now seeing minimum billable requirements in excess of this average. Marci Krufka of Altman Weil notes that it is “now typical for a law firm partner to work a total of 2,400 hours (billable and non-billable) annually.”
Interestingly, average annual billables for associates increased only 3.8% during the same period, from 1,798 in 1984 to 1,867 in 2001.
Krufka’s conclusion is sobering: “What does this mean? It is no longer the case that associates ‘pay their dues’ with hard work to be rewarded with an invitation to partnership. To the contrary, law firm partners work harder and have more responsibility than ever before, and there is nothing to indicate that will change any time soon.”
More evidence of a system out of balance.