It’s no secret that law is considered one of the most stressful industries in America. Data from 2018 reveals that upwards of 21% of active attorneys are problem drinkers, 28% struggle with depression, and 19% admit to showing symptoms of anxiety. Stress in the legal industry is a big problem.
Solving the problem requires a multifaceted approach. This post will deal with just one of those facets: addressing billable hours with new software. Though there’s no hard data to prove it, it’s a safe bet that pressure to produce billable hours is one of the things that leads to law office stress.
A Goal Out of Reach
Associates working for law firms are expected to submit a certain number of billable hours every year. Such expectations are rather firm. If an associate wants to earn the big bucks and move up the company ladder, those hours had better be there. Yet data suggests that the goal for many attorneys may be out of reach.
According to a 2018 piece from The National Law Review, the average first-year associate in the U.S. is required to produce 1,892 billable hours per year. That number goes up when you’re talking law firms with at least 700 attorneys. Associates at those firms are expected to produce 1,930 hours.
Let’s do some simple math. If you take the lower number and divide it by 50 (to account for two weeks of vacation per year) you end up with just 37.84 hours per week. The raw numbers seem to indicate that any attorney could get in the required billable hours just working a 40-hour workweek. But it doesn’t work that way.
There is a difference between billable hours and working hours. That same data shows that an attorney has to put in upwards of 2,400 hours at work to produce 1,800 billable hours. All of the extra time is taken up by tasks that are not billable.
Eliminating Tasks with Software
What do billable hours have to do with software? A lot, actually. One of the reasons so many attorneys struggle with their billable hours is that they are locked into old software packages that waste their time and duplicate their efforts. They spend excess time on non-billable tasks because their software forces them to.
NuLaw, a company that produces a cloud-based case management application based on Salesforce, says one of the keys to reducing stress for attorneys is to give them more efficient software tools to work with. The right tools can reduce the amount of time spent on non-billable tasks so that the attorney can concentrate on producing billable hours. That reduces stress.
Making Attorneys More Efficient
A well-designed case management application reduces the stress by making attorneys more efficient. This can be done in multiple ways, including the use of automation. By automating certain kinds of mundane tasks that unnecessarily take up time, software gives attorneys more time to devote to other things.
Efficiency is also accomplished by combining multiple legacy systems into a single cloud-based system that handles everything. This allows for integration between the different departments in a law firm. Once again, the software improves efficiency by reducing the amount of time and effort needed to do routine tasks.
There’s no arguing that America’s attorneys are stressed. While not all of that stress is due to software inefficiencies and billable hours, much of it is. Law firms can go a long way toward reducing in-office stress by getting rid of their old systems in favor of newer, more efficient, and more intelligent case management applications.