For most of their careers, lawyers are encouraged to bill more hours, and they’re rewarded financially and otherwise for doing so. But as a managing partner, billing so many hours likely means not spending enough time overseeing your practice. While this can be a confusing shift, the managerial duties neglected in pursuit of hourly fees can cost the firm much more than that initial income.
Managing partners often make decisions and address issues that financially impact their firms on a far greater scale than any billable hour. What, for example, is the monetary value to a firm when the managers consider expanding to another market, take steps to reduce turnover, or improve collections? In today’s dynamic legal services sector, sound management is often more valuable than rainmaking, and it is certainly a rarer skill at most firms.
So, how many hours should a managing partner bill monthly? It is, of course, difficult to state an absolute rule. As a consultant to lawyers and law firms, I am suspicious of managing partners who routinely bill beyond a hundred hours. And the larger the firm or the more systemic problems it faces, the less that managing partner should be billing on average.
What complications have you seen when managing partners don’t spend enough time managing?
Something else to think about.
McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc assembled very few hamburgers himself but created a system that’s sold billions. Read about how managing partners can scale up their firms and take a step back in this post from our archives.