Anna

Facing the FACTS

Over the past six weeks, Deborah Epstein Henry of Flex-Time Lawyers has been circulating a new work/life methodology called FACTS. She tells me that it "enables law firm lawyers to meet firms' demands while also giving them new work/life balance choices within the billable hour structure." Her introductory article, Facing the FACTS: Introducing Work/Life Choices for All Firm Lawyers Within the Billable Hour Model, was featured in the New York Times and Legal Blog Watch. She has been doing presentations of her new work at firms up and down the eastern seaboard, including this one yesterday at White and Case, DC--I hope some readers were able to go!
My school was in exams last month, so it's taken me this long to face FACTS. (Catchy acronym, no? Warning: more lame not-quite-even puns ahead. Also: useful information. I hope.)
Whither the billable hour?
I knew the problem was bad, but I had no idea how bad. Some quick hits: NALP found that in recent years, 4 out of 5 male and female associates left their firms within five years. The replacement cost for each lost associate? A conservative estimate is $200,000 to $500,000. (Hence the Project for Attorney Retention. Indeed!)
keys/goals are to get firms to:
1. implement policies in writing. The implicit suggestion is that transparency (or a lack of it) can make or break work/life reforms to the model of billable hours.
2. train their work force neutrally, emphasizing the business case for FACTS options for structuring hours and salaries. When Henry presents her ideas to groups (I have heard her speak a few times), she routinely emphasizes economic arguments. Her focus is on structuring incentives (her word) properly to get the outcomes we want from the labor market (my words). She's a woman an economist could love. I agree with this approach.
3. the steps
- firm internally surveys lawyers to determine average billable + nonbillable hours actually worked by various classes of employees--junior/mid-level/senior, equity/non-equity partner, family law/corporate law/other departments, etc.
- firm uses this knowledge base to create tables/scales of Target Hours for lawyers in various positions. Annually, each lawyer meets with his/her supervisor to review and set Target Hours for the coming year. Lawyers working different types of hours may then meet again with supervisors (quarterly, monthly--depends on the type of scheduling) to adjust their workloads to meet the annual targets.
Basically, FACTS is a breakdown of four different ways to organize a lawyer's workload, all of them then tuned to the Targeted Hours (which, I would say, roughly take the place of billable hours in current firm parlance--but they're different because they add in nonbillable hours).
Literally, the F, A, C, and S all revolve around the T, which is the core of Debbie's proposed salary/scheduling reform. A lawyer's Target Hours (roughly, a lawyer's expected billable hours + nonbillable hours) can be worked in four different ways: as Fixed Hours, Annualized Hours, Core Hours, or Shared Hours.
Please note that I'm trying to summarize here, and I haven't yet heard Debbie's in-person presentation of the FACTS, so please lookat her article for a more complete explanation if you have time.
FACTS stands for Fixed, Annualized, Core, Targeted, and Shared Hours.
law firms' face-time culture
are firms obsolete? no, but do we need to rethink their advantages? for them?
Just the FACTS, ma'am. [/obscure allusion to Dragnet]

Remember this: if you want work/life balance reform, the FACTS are on your side.

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