June 18, 2012
A Lexis Nexus Law Firm Billable Hours Survey, (pdf) out on Friday looked at billing efficiency among firms of one to 50 lawyers. The report, from legal technology company, LexisNexis, is based on responses from 499 law firms and law departments polled in May.
On average, respondents worked nine hours a day but only billed six hours, it found. That’s a 33% gap, which LexisNexis chalked up to general lawyerly inefficiency or not using staff to cover non-billable functions. Other factors: hours attorneys spend networking or cozying up to prospective clients, plus some intentional discounting of hours worked to keep existing clients happy.
Bigger law firm often have armies of support staff and sophisticated billing systems that boost efficiency and let “attorneys be attorneys,” said Loretta Ruppert, senior director of community management for LexisNexis Legal and Professional. “But at the smaller end of law, they typically wear multiple hats.”
Among the subset of smaller firms, billing efficiency is all over the place. For example, lawyers in Delaware (at least those who responded to the survey) lead the pack, billing 94% of hours worked. Other states in the top quadrant included New York, Colorado, Utah, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Less distinguished were respondents in Oregon, who billed a scant 40% of hours worked.