According to The American Lawyer, "During Q2 of 2018, associates worked an average of 139 hours per month; in Q2 2019, it was 138 hours; and in Q2 2020, that number dropped to 126". This reduction in the number of hours that associates are working is a troubling issue. Many associates depend on minimum billable hours for bonus eligibility, not to mention that they're likely missing valuable learning opportunities. In addition, this may mean that partners need to rush in and start handling associate-level work, taking away valuable time. That's why in this blog, we share three crucial tips to get your associates billing sooner.
Three Crucial Tips
1. Communicate clear expectations regarding billable hours, and check in regularly.
Associates should always understand how many billable hours they need to hit, especially if it’s a requirement for receiving their annual bonuses. It helps to take the total number of billable hours and divide that by 12 so they know how many billable hours they need each month to stay on track. Even breaking that further down on a weekly basis will help them stay motivated by accomplishing smaller milestones. In addition, you should encourage associates to enter their billable hours within 48 hours, as well as regularly audit their hours to see where they’re currently at. Even though work as an associate can be unpredictable, these guidelines will allow them to stay organized and easily be able to seek out more work if needed.
2. Create effective training.
Creating effective training can seem easier said than done. However, investing in effective training now for your associates will pay handsomely in dividends. The faster and more effective an associate learns something the right way, the quicker they’ll be able to bill for their work—and avoid any write-offs! The last thing you want is for a junior associate to be spinning their wheels while working late at night on something for ten hours when it should have only taken them two hours. Charging your client for those hours would be unethical, so you’d have to write that time off, correct the mistakes, and then forgo your own billable hours to spend time mentoring your junior associate. Put simply, ineffective training creates negative billables! So how does one exactly create effective training?
First, incorporate micro-learning into your program. Micro-learning is an educational approach that delivers information in digestible, bite-sized chunks. The National Training Laboratories states that long sessions of passive learning—such as sitting through a two-hour PowerPoint training— average less than 30% retention. In contrast, brief micro-sessions that build over time using active and multiple methods of training average up to 90%. These smaller bursts of training not only make retaining information easier but also allow your employees to easily access their training without it disrupting their busy workflows.
Second, create a roadmap for your associates that contains a curated skills development curriculum. What subjects, work product or skills do they need to tackle in years 1, 2, 3, and beyond? For example, a first to second year corporate associate should master forming corporate entities, conducting due diligence, preparing disclosure schedules, organizing and managing closings, and reviewing basic contracts. Each of these areas come with certain needed skills and relate to a certain type of work product. Your associates should have this roadmap in hand.
Another crucial aspect of effective training is implementing experiential training. You can achieve this by using documents from past deals or matters. You can break up mock tasks into smaller segments and assign “soft” time allotments for those tasks so associates become acquainted with how much time a task typically takes. (But for the first round, encourage your associates to take their time with those “mock tasks” so they can fully engage with the material without worry). As an associate, there’s nothing more valuable than diving into a real-world scenario and getting feedback on the work. Your training and feedback will give your associates the confidence they need to make valuable contributions when they take on the real work that follows
3. Measure and track training effectiveness.
By staying on top of your training effectiveness, you ultimately gain a better understanding of your workforce, start identifying leadership worthy talent, and ensure that your training is indeed helping your associates work and bill more efficiently. Furthermore, measuring and tracking training effectiveness will also boost your associate engagement. Informative training helps associates feel that you’re investing in them, which in turn motivates them to stay with your firm and focused during the day-to-day grind. Distractions can abound in the office, not to mention at home as many associates work remotely, so staying focused is crucial for associates who want to bill a strong billable year.
How Can We Help?
Firms such as K&L Gates, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, Barnes & Thornburg, and Haynes & Boone trust AltaClaro to get their associates billing sooner.
Our online boot camps help lawyers leverage technology and learn practical legal skills in a hybrid format through mock transactions and live feedback sessions with seasoned practitioners. From Fundamentals of M&A Transactions and Corporate Transactions to Capital Markets, our course catalog spans beginner to intermediate level classes. Our state-of-the-art learning technology platform also helps you measure and track training engagement and performance so you can increase retention and engagement.
Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with one of our experts and learn how you can empower your associates to hit the ground running.