I Wonder What Would Happen If Law Firms Focused More On Providing Quality Representation Rather Than Driving Billable Hours For Their New Associates?
OverFlow Legal just posted “Six New Associates at Ford & Harrison Subjected to Dangerous Experiment! No Minimum Billable Hour Requirement” which is a story originally reported at Law.com. Ford & Harrison conducted an experiment with some young associates, dropping the billable hour requirement. The key to the experiment was that clients were not billed for certain activities engaged in by associates, such as attending key depositions, client meetings and other high-level activity with partners. Because the clients weren’t being charged and the associates didn’t have to worry about minimum billable hours, the associates were actually able to learn how to practice law.
This highlights one of the primary problems with big law. New associates are left the table scraps only after the upper-level partners, mid-level partners, low-level partners, high-level associates, mid-level associates and anyone else above them on the food chain gets to pick over all the best work. Young associates end up pushing paper, doing research and preparing memos on narrow little issues with almost no context about why they are engaged in the activity. I recently drafted an article “You Really Learn To Be Lawyer At Big Law? Small Firms Offer Experience You Can’t Get Tied To A desk”
Apparently at Ford & Harrison, six new associates were actually able to get valuable experience. I agree with some of the comments over at OverFlowLegal that Ford & Harrison is moving in the right direction by focusing on training their associates to provide quality legal representation, rather than just driving minimum hourly billings. Of course, Ford & Harrison appears to have hundreds of associates. Only six got to participate in the project. There is no word yet from Ford & Harrison as to whether they will continue or expand the program. No doubt, the internal fight will be whether the loss in revenue is potentially made up by the much more fluffy concept of client satisfaction. We can only hope that Ford & Harrison will look beyond the cries from some partners of “lost revenue” and continue to position itself in the market as a quality leader.