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Ford & Harrison Sees Good Results from Eliminating Billable Hour Quota for First-Years

Last year, we blogged about Ford & Harrison, an Atlanta-headquartered labor and employment law firm that had eliminated billable hour requirements for its first-year associates under an innovative program called "Year One."  A year later, we're happy to learn that this program is proving to be a success.  The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog reported that Year One is being well received by the firm's clients, associates, and partners alike.  Under the program, first-year associates get to work directly with clients, and those clients are generally pleased to see a second lawyer working on their cases--at no extra charge.  The associates enjoy the chance to work on depositions, negotiations, mediations, and arbitrations while first-year associates at other firms often spend their time on research projects and document review.  Partners like the program because, to their surprise, it is helping the new associates become proficient and productive in a short amount of time; the reduced pressure seems to yield greater productivity, earlier.

The new attorneys must still meet one quota.  They must account for 1,900 hours of work, but that work can be either billable to clients or time defined as training, such as working with partners on depositions, meeting with clients, and preparing cases for trial. 

The early success of its Year One program qualifies Ford & Harrison as a continuing "Work Life Balance Winner."  Congratulations to this firm for finding an innovative way to increase client, associate, and partner satisfaction, and for developing a creative and successful alternative to the billable hour.

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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