Pacific Northwest law firm Lane Powell is reducing its billable hours requirement for associates by 100 hours, a move the firm’s leader said is meant to combat lawyer burnout.
Lane Powell associates will be expected to bill at least 1,750 per year, down from 1,850, firm president Barbara Duffy said in a Wednesday announcement
“The pandemic has exacerbated burnout in the legal profession,” Duffy said in a statement. “By making the billable hours requirement more sustainable and committing to the well-being of the firm’s lawyers and professional staff” Duffy said the Seattle-based firm “seeks to foster an environment that values and supports all aspects of wellness.”
The move comes as law firms face increasing pressure over recruiting top legal talent, paired with associate dissatisfaction with the traditional workplace and concerns about the overwork. Billable hours requirements are common throughout the industry, and can top 2,500 per year at massive firms.
Lane Powell was founded in 1875, has about 200 lawyers and offices in Seattle, Portland, Oregon, and Anchorage, Alaska. Its newly adopted model will allow associates who exceed the billable hours requirement to trigger a bonus structure that would result in a bigger compensation package.
The firm will also offer associates a credit of up to 100 hours for time spent on pro bono and diversity efforts. The move closely followed London-founded Eversheds Sutherland announcement that it would give U.S. attorneys a 50-hour billable credit annually.
Lawyers of color make up about 11% of firm partners across the legal industry, according to a 2021 National Association for Law Placement study.
Eversheds and Lane Powell are among a group of firms, including Cooley LLP, Hogan Lovells, Reed Smith, and Ropes & Gray, which have in recent years adopted hourly credit policies to spur diversity efforts in the legal industry which has a documented lack of minorities and women.
At the same time, the law firm industry is trying to come to grips with the pervasiveness of substance abuse and depression in its ranks.
Duffy said Lane Powell is instituting changes because the firm “seeks to foster an environment that values and supports all aspects of wellness.”