Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Short on Billable Work

I hate billing. Right now there's really nothing billable fo 3lol01/09/17
I've had the same problem recently. I'm working up comp file mrtor01/09/17
It's basically impossible for me to invent much to bill for. 3lol01/09/17
I've been doing a lot of menial trial prep work to fill my d mrtor01/09/17
If you truly don't have anything to do, you also need to be thedarkscrivener01/09/17
Agreed. I've been shooting emails to my supervising partner mrtor01/09/17
I did my due diligence in asking around. The firm isn't that 3lol01/09/17
the advice to constantly email partners for work is highly c williamdrayton01/09/17
This is a good post. Agree, you have to email partners for w tdkerabatsos01/09/17
Relax. You are new. Sometimes it's not cost or time efficien retard01/09/17
It picked up. Easily met my billable goal for today and made 3lol01/10/17
Assuming your state allows on-demand, slow times are good fo flharfh01/10/17
I am a new attorney and hence forced to do draconian live/in 3lol01/10/17
Have fun with the live CLEs muahahahha (says the guy who no mtobeinf01/10/17
Honestly, spend your free time plotting-out how you'll handl patenttrollnj01/10/17
Start applying to other places if you want to continue to pr mtobeinf01/10/17
"It's not too difficult once you get the main law down" Y patenttrollnj01/10/17
Relax guys, it was just a slow day. I'm not looking for a ne 3lol01/10/17
Whenever you are low on work, it's never a good sign. If yo hairypalms01/10/17
Holy Christ! He just started. It takes time to develop a wor retard01/10/17
This thread highlights how legal practice causes mental prob triplesix01/10/17
Thanks, poasting buddy. I'm really not worried at the moment 3lol01/10/17

3lol (Jan 9, 2017 - 10:22 am)

I hate billing. Right now there's really nothing billable for me to do. What is a productive way to spend my time? I can read JDU and poast, but that can only entertain me for so long.

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mrtor (Jan 9, 2017 - 10:27 am)

I've had the same problem recently. I'm working up comp files that don't necessarily need to be worked up just to get numbers on my time sheet. Thankfully the firm encourages it and the client doesn't mind. In one sense, it is a relief not being overwhelmed. On the other hand, it can be challenging to invent legitimate work all of the time.

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3lol (Jan 9, 2017 - 10:33 am)

It's basically impossible for me to invent much to bill for. I never thought I'd envy ID/comp lawyers with tons of brainless work, but that doesn't sound too bad.

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mrtor (Jan 9, 2017 - 10:43 am)

I've been doing a lot of menial trial prep work to fill my days. Copying exhibits, preparing routine motions, reviewing medical, sending out correspondence -- all for cases that are bound to settle on the eve of the trial.

It's mindless paralegal work. But we all have to make a living, right?

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thedarkscrivener (Jan 9, 2017 - 10:33 am)

If you truly don't have anything to do, you also need to be e-mailing other lawyers in the firm, especially the partners, asking for projects. That way even if there isn't any work, you've created a paper trail if/when someone tries to throw you under the bus for not hitting your hours.

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mrtor (Jan 9, 2017 - 10:40 am)

Agreed. I've been shooting emails to my supervising partner every couple of days. I've had a couple of one-off projects thrown my way, but I'm mainly told to keep working up my current cases. They know its slow right now so its not being held against me. That being said, the hours expectation remains the same. I'm hoping to branch out into some of the firm's other practice areas in the coming months with the expectation that more work will be sent my way. Many of the other associates are short on work as well. The firm either hired too many attorneys or the partners are failing to delegate work effectively. I'm hoping its the latter and that more projects will start flowing as the year progresses.

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3lol (Jan 9, 2017 - 10:52 am)

I did my due diligence in asking around. The firm isn't that big so I think I've covered my bases and one of the partners wants me to go over some stuff with him at 1130.

In the meantime, I'm looking at used plane websites see if I could afford a Cirrus SR20 (I can't).

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williamdrayton (Jan 9, 2017 - 11:55 am)

the advice to constantly email partners for work is highly credited. always have a paper trail ready for the end of the month/quarter when some bean counter yells about the lack of hours. I was in a situation where I constantly sent emails, even though it annoyed the partner who wanted me to talk to him instead. I resisted because who would remember that on last Tuesday at 9:30AM I verbally asked for work and you didn't have any?

if this is a long-term problem, you need to start looking at other opportunities. a firm that doesn't have enough work is likely suffering from attorney over-capacity. if it's a short-term new fiscal year thing, then that's another story - but highly unlikely.

as for partners not being "efficient" in delegating work: it's likely not a lack of efficiency - it's that they have to meet their own billing requirements. they are hoarding because they are worried that they don't have enough work.

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tdkerabatsos (Jan 9, 2017 - 12:58 pm)

This is a good post. Agree, you have to email partners for work. It feels like nagging, it may annoy some of them, and it may not get you a project (or it may get you a lame 45 minute project). But you need to be able to prove that you weren't just sitting around.

Agree also that if this continues for an extended period, it's a red flag. Many firms have slow periods but be vigilant.

Finally, if you ask for work and don't get any, don't just sit around playing Snood, surfing the web, posting on JDU, etc. Use the time on business development. Make a list of contacts. Set up lunches. Make sure all social media accounts are good looking, professional and current. Read up in recent developments in your practice area. Many possibilities here. Key takeaway is don't waste time.

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retard (Jan 9, 2017 - 12:58 pm)

Relax. You are new. Sometimes it's not cost or time efficient to bring you onto an ongoing matter and get you up to speed. As new matters come in you'll be staffed. Take this time to learn about your practice area, read some crap, etc.

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3lol (Jan 10, 2017 - 4:14 pm)

It picked up. Easily met my billable goal for today and made up ground from yesterday. Thanks for advice, ya'll.

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flharfh (Jan 10, 2017 - 4:23 pm)

Assuming your state allows on-demand, slow times are good for getting your CLEs out of the way.

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3lol (Jan 10, 2017 - 4:30 pm)

I am a new attorney and hence forced to do draconian live/interactive CLE's in New York for the first two years. There's a program which everyone does which kills the whole requirement in two days which I'm doing in March. At least firm is paying for it.

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mtobeinf (Jan 10, 2017 - 5:26 pm)

Have fun with the live CLEs muahahahha (says the guy who no longer practices but has to do CLEs to maintain his license, not sure which is more frustrating though if I keep going to Trust Conferences I can get the lot of em' for free each year)

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patenttrollnj (Jan 10, 2017 - 8:41 pm)

Honestly, spend your free time plotting-out how you'll handle being unemployed.

I don't mean to scare you, but firms want you there to generate money for them. If you're not doing that, they'll get rid of you.

Note: firms care more about the billables than they do about quality, especially if it's an insurance mill. So, don't sit there telling yourself that you do good work, thus they won't fire you. It's all about billable hours.

Turnaround for young associates is typically 2-5 years. At my first job (a suburban, insurance defense mill), it was very rare for any associate to last more than 3 years. Very few stayed longer.

Thus, if you're not generating enough for them, they'll get rid of you.

Prepare yourself!

And Good luck!

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mtobeinf (Jan 10, 2017 - 8:55 pm)

Start applying to other places if you want to continue to practice. For instance, I had a civil rights litigation background so naturally at my ID firm I was the go to junior to Employment law and discrimination Defense. That would have been my alternative if I chose to continue. It's not too difficult once you get the main law down. Plus McDonnell Douglas. I can write a treatise on how easily maniputable that standard has become.

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patenttrollnj (Jan 10, 2017 - 9:00 pm)

"It's not too difficult once you get the main law down"

You can learn all the law you want, but if there aren't enough jobs out there it becomes extremely difficult.

The OP seems like a relatively young person, meaning it's even more difficult than it was for us "older" lawyers.

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3lol (Jan 10, 2017 - 9:24 pm)

Relax guys, it was just a slow day. I'm not looking for a new job. I worked here in law school and they contacted me a year and a half after I left to offer me a job.

It's not ID, it's a specialized area and work quality is actually important. The associates typically stay for 2-3 years. Of all the ones I know, one is now a partner, several went in-house and the other two went biglaw, one at DLA Piper. I like those prospects.

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hairypalms (Jan 10, 2017 - 10:00 pm)

Whenever you are low on work, it's never a good sign. If you had ample work and then your billables suddenly drop, you should consider the possibility that your job is in jeopardy. A tried and true way for firms to get rid of associates is to stop giving work to an associate. At the end of the year when their billables are low, the firm has the perfect rationale for letting you go. This happened to me during my first law firm job. My work dried up, I was unable to meet my annual billables, and I was shown the door. My story is not at all unique as I'm sure many here can attest.

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retard (Jan 10, 2017 - 10:23 pm)

Holy Christ! He just started. It takes time to develop a workflow when your firm does even remotely sophisticated work.

3lol - hang tight. If every month your hours aren't increasing and by June you still can't meet your hours then start to worry.

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triplesix (Jan 10, 2017 - 10:15 pm)

This thread highlights how legal practice causes mental problems or maybe law attracts the neurotic types in general. This is no way to go about life. I know it is brutal out there but your mental health should come first.

Also, I love the advice to annoy the partners show that you are looking for work. Yeah, I am sure that is the key to not get fired... If you are getting fired, you are getting fired. Annoying people won't change that either way, just makes you feel pathetic.

Poastin buddy, I don't think you are getting fired within next few months since you are a recent hire. But to be fair, next January the advice provided by the mentals above is credited. The game is game, and you got to bill your hours or they will find someone who can bill hours and make them stick out of thin air.

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3lol (Jan 10, 2017 - 11:48 pm)

Thanks, poasting buddy. I'm really not worried at the moment.

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