When you start out in the city your first few weeks are a bit…well roshambo (google it if you miss the meaning!) . You get taught a lot of things which seem useful at the time – here is your legal research login, this is our standard form letter etc etc. However, something you are not often told, especially as a trainee is what you need to be billing each month. Trust me, all firms have expectations, even for trainees and if your a paralegal fee earner, then yup the partners have targets for you too.
So let’s talk figures. Think monthly and think of a figure that you think your law firm (or law firm to be if you haven’t yet embarked upon your city career) would be happy with as your billable hours figure. Okay, now double it. That’s probably more accurate.
To put it in perspective for you, my own last months billable hours amounted to £18,000. That was quite an average month. That is a yearly figure of £216,000 – I would say that isn’t to bad at all for a trainee, but some may disagree!
Now if you are a partner or senior associate your billable hours better be well above that figure. It’s a well known “secret” that, at some law firms, if you miss your billable targets for more than two months in a row, you are automatically placed on the redundancy list – forget holidays at these firms and get billing.
In earlier blogs I wrote that you should aim to bill 3-4x your salary. However, If your looking to make partner, I would advise aiming for 5x or more of your salary. If your earning £50,000 and your charge rate is £200 p/h that’s 1250 billable hours each year or 24 hours per week of billable time. Now this may not seem a lot, but remember, not all of a lawyers time is chargeable, and when you factor in business development / networking as well as these non chargeable activities, you have to be relatively efficient to hit these targets! I hasten to add that these targets are relatively modest with the US Firms requiring significantly more!
It’s not all doom and gloom though because if you are entitled to a bonus, then the more you bill the more you make! C’est la vie!