I got a kick out of a post at Above The Law, Associate Bonus Watch: Dechert’s Bonus Is Contingent On Something That Sure Sounds Like Billable HoursThe unstated but unmistakeable conclusion from the memo is that even firms that say hours aren’t important place disproportionate importance on billable hours.  ATL quotes one tipster saying:

To cut through the crap, bonus amounts are determined based on your hours. If you meet certain pre-determined hours thresholds substantially over the 2000 requirement (it is 2000 in New York, not 1950) you will get a larger bonus.

The full Dechert memo is attached to the post, and I encourage to read it and judge for yourself whether the firm is rewarding associates for meeting some hours target.  It seems to me an inescapable conclusion.  If that’s what those inside Dechert believe, that is what the associates will look to deliver.  Firms just don’t get (or care) that these bonus systems are perhaps the single biggest factor (well, perhaps the biggest factor is job security) driving associate behavior, just as rewarding partners on the amount of their billings (rather than profitability) is a huge factor in driving partner behaviors that are antithetical to the clients’ desire for value and efficiency.