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When lawyers want to make money, in many practices, all it takes is working more hours in the day, generating more revenue, and racking up those billable hours. For contingency practices, more hours may not translate to more pay right away, but the same idea still applies. Work more, earn more.
If your firm can support you by providing an endless amount of work, and incentivizes you to exceed minimum billable hour requirements, then the decision to put in extra hours is limited only by your own desire to make money. If you're not incentivized to exceed the minimums, then consider moonlighting. But, if there are incentives, you may want to consider the Michigan patent lawyer who recently made headlines for billing 3,600 hours in 2017. Hypothetically speaking, if he cleared $300 an hour of his own billables, he made over a million by billing alone.
Put in the Hours
Surprisingly, lawyers across the board either don't realize they have to put in the hours to make more money, or we just may not be as greedy as the stereotypes make us out to be. According to a recent survey, just under half of all surveyed firms missed their billing goal for 2017. More than half the firms surveyed also reported that equity partners were not busy enough, and non-equity partners were underutilized. Over 80 percent of firms reported having lawyers that are "chronic underperformers." Given the dismal numbers, if you start to routinely bill more hours than other attorneys in the firm, you may put yourself on track to be the boss.
And don't worry, so long as you're not actually a workaholic, you'll be okay.
Churning Hay into Cash
There are so many idioms about churning hours, making hay, getting worms early, or just making cold hard cash that there's bound to be one you can identify with. But just because you're motivated to work, that's not enough. You have to work smarter and harder.
For some transactional lawyers, that may mean more revenue generating work and avoiding billables that could potentially be cut, or not billed. For volume practitioners, this might mean focusing more time every week on signing up new clients to keep the steady stream of clients moving along. For patent practitioners, that might mean billing 10 hours a day 7 days a week for 52 weeks a year.