The New Crowell & Moring Billable Hour Requirement

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It was excitement, followed by fear.

“At first I was feeling like I NEEDED [my firm] to match, but now… I am a little worried that raising salaries to 180 will be a way for firms to demand even MORE insane hours from new associates.”

That’s what one law graduate wrote to us after dozens of major law firms issued pay raises to associates throughout the country. We initially thought: You’re going to work pretty hard either way — it’s Big Law after all. But news emerged last week that could keep this foot soldier’s fear alive.

Crowell & Moring announced that it would increase its billable hour requirement for associates, from 1,900 hours per year to 2,000 per year.

Per a firm spokesman, here are the details, from an emailed statement in response to several questions from Big Law Business.

• Billable hour requirement is increasing to 2,000 per year, with 50 pro bono hours counting as billable (although our Management Board will be making a final determination on pro bono hours on Tuesday).

• 2,000-hour target effective September 1, 2016 for next billable year (cycles runs from September 1 to August 31).

• Standard applies to all promotion-track associates and counsel in U.S. offices.

• Associates who hit the 2,000-hour requirement in Years 1-5, have been at the firm for 10 months and are in good standing will receive “market” bonuses. This is new for us and an evaluation of the payment of bonuses was well underway early in the year.

• As it has always done, the firm will continue to allow reduced hours arrangements for personal, health or family reasons. The firm will accommodate reduced targets otherwise on a case-by-case basis.

• Those beyond 5th year are eligible for promotion to counsel, which continues the lockstep scale through the 8th year to $315,000. Counsel within a two-year window for promotion to partner are compensated at a higher level.

Is this connected at all to the recent associate salary raises?

As we are attempting to align our salaries and bonuses with the market, we are trying to align our hours expectations to the market. And we were working on that alignment before the salary increases were announced.

And what kind of bonus can an associate expect if they hit their 2,000-hour target?

Year Market bonus*
1st $15,000
2nd $25,000
3rd $50,000
4th $65,000
5th $80,000
6th $90,000
7th plus $100,000

*Eligibility is based on reaching 2,000 hours and being at the firm for 10 months in good standing.

Write to us if you hear of other law firms changing their billable hour requirements. BigLawBusiness@bna.com.

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