Associates at major law firms in the US and UK are today going on a ‘Time Strike‘, where they do the work that is required of them, but refuse to log their billable hours.
The protest, organised by the Value Not Time group, is aimed at sending the message that junior lawyers no longer want to be measured primarily by the number of hours they are willing to work each day, but instead by the value they bring to the firm and the clients.
Artificial Lawyer spoke to one of the organisers, Emily LeMontre, who is an associate at a global law firm.
– First, why are you doing this?
We are doing this because enough is enough. We love our jobs, we respect our colleagues, we really want to be lawyers working inside major law firms – but, that doesn’t mean that the main way we are judged, that how our performance is gauged, should be by how willing we are to just keep working.
We want to add value to the firms we work for and the clients we serve, not just build up hours upon hours on our time sheets, which of course once they are billed to a client are often partly written off.
For example, in the past some of our group have worked through very important family events they had booked months before, then that additional time that had been generated and then billed was written off by the clients. It was all for nothing. And worse, we have plenty of legal tech tools now at our firms that could have done that additional manual work very quickly.
We just don’t believe that in 2021 we cannot find a better way of doing things when it comes to our time-based culture.
– How many of you are doing this?
There are about 200 of us now, spread across about two dozen major law firms, mostly in the US and UK. In fact, we started this three years ago, but the pandemic has really shown us how important it is to have some control over our lives.
This is however the first time we have talked openly about it. The first couple of years it was kept fairly quiet. Now though, we are going public with the campaign.
– But, isn’t this a sackable issue?
That is a very good question. You are right, normally this would be an immediate ‘out the door’ situation. But, you know what? There are enough partners that are sympathetic to our cause to allow us to do this – at least for one day a year. They cover for us.
– Some of the partners support this…? Really?
Why is that a surprise? Partners were associates once too. They also have to log billable hours, which is really a bit bizarre at that highly experienced level. Ten minutes with a top partner could be worth $10,000 to a client, maybe far more, but they still have to log their time using an hourly rate, just like we do. It’s a bit absurd, don’t you think?
We now see at every firm there are a growing number of partners that support our cause. And, to be frank, there is no way we could do this without them. Plus, the clients support us too – at least when they know we are doing this.
– Wow. Artificial Lawyer is stunned. So what happens next?
We will see if we can make this grow globally. For now it’s just about 200 people and we do this just once a year, every April 1. Our goal is to get this number into the thousands, and then eventually to see the entire billable time system for associates overhauled. At least, that is our hope.
I guess there will always be some hourly work, but we just want to be judged by the value we bring, not the time we are willing to give up.