Tuesday, March 01, 2005

A lifestyle of billable hours...

Yesterday was a faithful day where I had to take a clear step back and analyze the road ahead, and decide how to move forward. I had a sobering discussion which challenged my belief system to the core. I was wondering whether a person like me can handle such a lifestyle, and whether I am of such a caliber to make it through this kind of life, or whether I would burn out and be unable to handle it.

So what's on my mind? We covered in class yesterday the average number of billable hours an attorney must satisfy, and the corresponding hours in the office that would be required to satisfy that number. But simply being in the office does not generate billable hours. Nor does working on a speech for the partner, going on a seminar, taking a shabbos or holiday off, spending time with family or children -- all these activities remove a lawyer from his primary goal in his profession -- to generate enough billable hours to satisfy the partner's needs to justify paying a high salary. Further, even when one is working on a case, he cannot always justify billing the client for his work, for example, if he is reading a case on the law or talking or traveling to a client or a court. And while the money is very impressive, as they say, "you make it, they spend it." There are other options, such as working for a company, or working for a government or in a related profession as a 9-5'er. This route becomes more attractive to me every day.

My purpose in going to law school was to create a profession where I would be paid a high amount of money for the specialized knowledge I killed myself in law school to learn. Doing the calculations to satisfy the billing requirements of the firm divided by the percentage of time I actually do billable activity can easily leave me working for less than minimum wage. Flipping burgers at a fast-food restaurant becomes more profitable.

Further, knowing what I now know, I ask myself whether it would be wise to even engage such a profession knowing the possible requirements down the line and the sacrifices it might require on my family and time, when I can opt for a lower paying position with fewer benefits, but more realistic hours where I would actually be able to have a healthy family life. Life is not all about how much money a man can amass, nor is it about being a star employee on the path to being a partner. There are higher considerations involved, and ones which I will need to make within the near future.

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