Christine Schleppegrell

Leverage Your Judicial Clerkship for a Successful Private Sector Career: Closing out the Billable Year and Staying Busy during the Holidays

Now that you are nearly fully adjusted to private practice life it’s time to close out the billable year. Many firms end their billable year in November. As soon as you start at a firm it is wise to ask the following (first check your offer letter for answers to these questions): (1) what is the billable hour expectation; (2) are my hours prorated since I started mid-year; (3) when does the billable year end; and (4) am I eligible for a bonus even though I started mid-year.

Perhaps your firm only gives bonuses to associates who are with the firm for a full year and who significantly exceed their hours requirement. Or, maybe your firm adheres to less stringent requirements and rewards associates who do good work, but do not meet their billable hours requirement. Even though your answer to these questions will probably not impact how you approach your practice, it is always good to know in order to appropriately set expectations.

A second challenge will be staying busy during the holiday season. If your practice tends to slow down in November and December, but your billable year ends in November, it might be a good idea to postpone holiday events (to the extent that you can) to December when you will have less pressure to meet your billables. However, some associates (especially those with significant trial and travel time) have already satisfied their hours requirement by early fall so this may not be an issue. When you start your new billable year keep in mind that it is advantageous to build up a buffer throughout the year so that you can afford to bill fewer hours during the holiday season, allowing time for more networking and client development opportunities.

Focus on marketing, networking, and publishing if your practice slows during the holidays. Even if you don’t meet your billable hours requirement you can still amass non-billable hours and demonstrate that you are investing in the firm by targeting potential clients and demonstrating expertise in a particular field. This may also be a good time to catch up on CLE credit if your compliance period is fast approaching. 

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