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How many associates don’t meet billable targets?


Lawstudent249
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Lawstudent249
  • Law Student

I’m just curious how common it is for big law associates to not meet billable targets (and therefore not get a bonus)? I understand that it may depend on several factors such as the firm, the target, and the practice area, but just wanting to get a general idea of what the norm is. I’m working in Vancouver if that matters at all. 

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leafs_law
  • Lawyer

Not sure about Vancouver but in Toronto it is very common for associates to miss target, though you might not get a bonus. 

At one firm I worked at, word amongst associates was that the following applied:

  • Target 1800 - bonus essentially guaranteed and amount increases to extent you exceed target
    • 1700 - whether to award a bonus is discretionary but most do not receive one
    • 1600 - likely won't be pushed out but won't get a bonus
    • 1500 - You can do this no more than once

Everything I saw was pretty consistent with that, but it will depend on the firm. In some firms the individual practice groups decide their own associates' bonuses. Some of the big firms have started to say that there is no target -  do not believe that. Generally, hours and bonus will be prorated if you are on a leave for part of the year (I've heard of this specifically in the case of pregnancy leave).

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Rashabon
  • Lawyer

I would also say it depends a lot on practice area. Corporate/securities groups routinely hit target. L&E, maybe not unless it's a particularly busy year.

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  • 2 weeks later...
easttowest
  • Lawyer

Practice group plays a huge part, my partner is in a specialty group and her colleague, an 8th year, has never hit even their lowered target. 

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Jaggers

When I was at the firm, my target was 1800 and I never once hit it. And I never got complaints about it from any partner I worked with. I usually did around 1700. I never got a bonus, but didn't care about that.

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  • 3 months later...
boyo
  • Law Student
On 3/5/2022 at 1:38 PM, Jaggers said:

When I was at the firm, my target was 1800 and I never once hit it. And I never got complaints about it from any partner I worked with. I usually did around 1700. I never got a bonus, but didn't care about that.

Sorry to be reviving this. This seems incredible to me. Not in a bad way, just surprised. I always assumed if you missed target two times in a row you'd be out. Glad to hear that's not the case.

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Rashabon
  • Lawyer

It depends on practice area. Some areas just don't hit high billable targets because of the nature of the work. Others, you only don't hit those targets if you're avoiding working all the time.

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Jaggers

It depends not only on the practice area, but also the firm. And being good at what you're doing. In my group, I doubt there were many associates going much beyond the target, though, so my 1700 was not that low in comparison to the higher billers.

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boyo
  • Law Student
22 minutes ago, Jaggers said:

It depends not only on the practice area, but also the firm. And being good at what you're doing. In my group, I doubt there were many associates going much beyond the target, though, so my 1700 was not that low in comparison to the higher billers.

Mind me asking what practice area it was? I guess capital markets and m&a at a seven sister firm would be expecting targets to be hit.

It seems more troubling at firms that have “corporate” which includes everything from bankruptcy, to securities, to fund formation. If you were doing almost exclusively fund formation, that may be an area where you might slip below?

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Rashabon
  • Lawyer

There is nobody solely doing fund formation in Toronto big law.

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Ryn
  • Lawyer
2 hours ago, boyo said:

I guess capital markets and m&a at a seven sister firm would be expecting targets to be hit.

It's also very easy to hit targets in big law M&A.

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Ramesses

The business lawyers at my firm often hit their targets and get bonuses. The litigators often miss their targets and get no bonuses. Both eventually become income partner, but a lot more of the business lawyers are equity as opposed to litigators. 

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boyo
  • Law Student
5 hours ago, Rashabon said:

There is nobody solely doing fund formation in Toronto big law.

I haven’t seen anyone’s work experience as 100% fund formation, but there are certainly some that are around 80-90% (purely just counting what work experience was listed on their site - of course it may not be 100% representative). That was a 2018 call.

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C_Terror
  • Lawyer
7 hours ago, boyo said:

Mind me asking what practice area it was? I guess capital markets and m&a at a seven sister firm would be expecting targets to be hit.

It seems more troubling at firms that have “corporate” which includes everything from bankruptcy, to securities, to fund formation. If you were doing almost exclusively fund formation, that may be an area where you might slip below?

In the grand scheme of things, 1700 is about 95% of target. Most sister firms (I suspect all) will be okay with that, even at cap markets and M&A. From the friends I talk to in the other sister firms and in my experience, bonuses are a sliding scale, and bonuses are doled out even between 1700-1800. 

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Rashabon
  • Lawyer
5 hours ago, boyo said:

I haven’t seen anyone’s work experience as 100% fund formation, but there are certainly some that are around 80-90% (purely just counting what work experience was listed on their site - of course it may not be 100% representative). That was a 2018 call.

It's not, trust me. There isn't enough of that work in Toronto to sustain an 80-90% practice in an area, especially as a 2018 call.

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Cool_name
3 hours ago, Rashabon said:

It's not, trust me. There isn't enough of that work in Toronto to sustain an 80-90% practice in an area, especially as a 2018 call.

No no, this person saw someone’s firm portfolio. I’m pretty sure they are correct. 

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hiccups
  • Lawyer
15 hours ago, Ramesses said:

The business lawyers at my firm often hit their targets and get bonuses. The litigators often miss their targets and get no bonuses. Both eventually become income partner, but a lot more of the business lawyers are equity as opposed to litigators. 

Wouldn't it be pretty easy to hit target doing litigation? You can bill a big chunk of time for drafting a written submission and developing legal arguments.

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JohnsonWest
  • Lawyer
43 minutes ago, hiccups said:

Wouldn't it be pretty easy to hit target doing litigation? You can bill a big chunk of time for drafting a written submission and developing legal arguments.

it's not as simple as you make it out to be lol. depending on the type of work you do you can spend a lot of time doing doc review which helps you meet target, but if you have institutional clients they will analyze every 0.1 and ask you about it. So no, I don't find it "pretty easy" to hit target doing litigation, it's certainly not impossible but it's a little more complicated than simply preparing written submissions and developing arguments. 

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disgruntledpelican
  • Lawyer
18 hours ago, Rashabon said:

There is nobody solely doing fund formation in Toronto big law.

Ya. At my former form, even the primary contacts for fund formation with all kids of top rankings in the space did lots of financings and private M&A (often for the same sponsors they formed funds for).

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Jaggers
1 hour ago, JohnsonWest said:

it's not as simple as you make it out to be lol. depending on the type of work you do you can spend a lot of time doing doc review which helps you meet target, but if you have institutional clients they will analyze every 0.1 and ask you about it. So no, I don't find it "pretty easy" to hit target doing litigation, it's certainly not impossible but it's a little more complicated than simply preparing written submissions and developing arguments. 

Litigation is pretty "feast or famine". You can get on a big case where you can bill 8 hours in a day for doc review or research or drafting a factum, but in between there are a lot of days where you are cobbling 0.1 or 0.2s for writing emails, looking something up, filing something, etc.

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JohnsonWest
  • Lawyer
1 hour ago, Jaggers said:

Litigation is pretty "feast or famine". You can get on a big case where you can bill 8 hours in a day for doc review or research or drafting a factum, but in between there are a lot of days where you are cobbling 0.1 or 0.2s for writing emails, looking something up, filing something, etc.

yeah, there are certainly ebbs and flows like every other area. Sometimes you have a row of discoveries and motions, other times there's a lot of the latter of what you list. 

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boyo
  • Law Student
19 hours ago, Cool_name said:

No no, this person saw someone’s firm portfolio. I’m pretty sure they are correct. 

Is it not okay to look at a lawyers representative work on the firm’s site?

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disgruntledpelican
  • Lawyer
4 hours ago, boyo said:

Is it not okay to look at a lawyers representative work on the firm’s site?

I know exactly who you are talking about and I can guarantee you they do not practice 80-90% fund formation (though a majority of their practice is).

Some clients don't want their deals made public on the firm website (especially tech and PE clients). The list is not necessarily indicative of one's actual practice. I had 2/12 show up on my profile on the firm's website.

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Ramesses
On 6/17/2022 at 2:50 PM, hiccups said:

Wouldn't it be pretty easy to hit target doing litigation? You can bill a big chunk of time for drafting a written submission and developing legal arguments.

What the others said. I also heard if your client is an insurance company or an insurance company is invovled somehow then they are very picky with billing and would write you down all the time.

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easttowest
  • Lawyer
On 6/17/2022 at 2:27 AM, Ramesses said:

The business lawyers at my firm often hit their targets and get bonuses. The litigators often miss their targets and get no bonuses. Both eventually become income partner, but a lot more of the business lawyers are equity as opposed to litigators. 

There are also firms that pay decent bonuses for coming in range of target and only have equity partnership.

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