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In Search of Perfect Client Service Why lawyers don't seem to get it

Worst Law Firm Decision Imaginable?

Posted in Commentary, Leadership and Management

The title is Fred Bartlit’s take on the recent decision by Pillsbury Winthrop to cut associate salaries between 10-20% based on utilization rates.  Fred’s take is ‘this guarantees that more associates will "make their quotas" and that clients will pay much more for no reason." (Fred’s comments appear in a post on Legal On Ramp)

When I and others have suggested before that pressure to meet hours requirements breeds inflationary billing practices, some have resisted the idea.  In this environment, where meeting hours quotas can make the difference between having a good paying job and long term unemployment, I think the temptation to inflate hours will be irresistible for almost all but the most saintly or those so disenchanted with their job they are prepared to leave anyway.  Bear in mind that this kind of hours inflation does not have to be outright fraud, though I suspect we will encounter cases of this kind of behavior.  But most people will be more subtle:  who’s to say whether it really should take 10 hours instead of 7 to research an issue or write a motion?  Or what about taking an extra deposition "just to be sure a fact is really a fact?"  There are almost countless ways motivated lawyers can "create hours" and, if your job depends on doing so, it is a fare bet that many (most?) will.

But Fred’s point is more focused–why should the firm’s clients have to pay for this, whether it be risk or reality?  This kind of policy is an extreme example of ignoring client service.  I’m not sure why a client would tolerate it.