In order to understand some of the ways that legal bills get inflated, we must understand how a newly-minted lawyer comes up through the ranks of a law firm.

Most law firms have minimum billable-hour requirements for their associate attorneys and paralegals. In the past, litigation associates had to bill 1,900 hours every year, and all other associates had to bill at least 1,800 hours per year. In 2016, large law firms raised associate salaries.² But they also raised the billable hour requirement to 2,000 hours per year for all associates. As one associate anonymously described the increase in hours on “Above The Law”:

“There’s not enough work for this move... Now, associates will be scrounging for what little extra work there is, and it is very unlikely to me that more than a small minority of associates would be able to bill 2,000 even if they wanted to, especially in slower groups (of which there are many).”

So what must those associates do to meet the 2,000 minimum hours every year to stay employed? What must they do to meet the 2,500 annual hours to garner a spot among the partnership?

² Joe Patrice, “With Great Raises Come Great Increased Billing Requirements — The Other Side Of Raises,” Above The Law, https://abovethelaw.com/2016/08/with-great-raises-come-great-increased-billing-requirements-the-other-side-of-raises/