Top law firms have begun upping pressure on lawyers by hiking targets for the number of billable hours they are expected to work each year, according to new research.
UK law firms are increasingly calling on their lawyers to bill more hours as they seek to reverse the sector’s declining profitability and weather the oncoming economic storm, research by tech company BigHand shows.
The survey showed 98 per cent of UK law firms have increased their billable hours targets, with 47 per cent of British firms having increased their targets by more than 10 per cent.
Billing targets vary significantly between law firms, with many refusing to disclose information about the number of chargeable hours their lawyers are expected to work.
At the top end of the scale, lawyers at Texas headquarter law firm Vinson & Elkin’s London office are expected to bill clients for 2,000 hours of work each year.
The higher billing targets come as legal sector profits dropped 3.6 per cent in Q2, marking the fourth consecutive quarter of decline, research from Thomson Reuters showed in August.
Law firms have however largely held back from laying off staff, amid fears of repeating the mistakes made in 2008 when the sector later struggled to rehire laid off lawyers.