One of the most important aspects of your legal career-and almost among the most mysterious to young attorneys and others working both inside and outside of law firms-is law firm economics.

The notion that a partner or associate must produce 2,000 or 2,400 hours of billable work yearly virtually assures that some clients will be overbilled.

Of course, almost all firms have stated policies that forbid…unethical and illegal billing practices.  The extent to which these policies are actually followed depends on the firm culture, on unspoken messages that leaders of the firm send to its lawyers.

When money becomes the primary goal, a law firm may end up choosing to systematically inflate client bills and even to bill for expenses not actually incurred for those clients.
--Seth Rosner, American Bar Association Journal, May 1992
 
A. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes

The economics of your particular law firm will have profound significance in terms of what happens with your legal career.  Many legal careers end up being quite successful in certain law firm economic environments where they might fail in other economic environments.  Smart attorneys and law students should have a good understanding of law firm economics before joining any law firm.

The problem with law firm economics is that very little exists out there to explain it.  Law firms certainly do not tell their associates how the economics of their firms work.  Many law firms do not even tell their partners how the economics of law firms work.  Certainly this is something that is rarely if ever be taught in law school.  Different law firms are built and operated in different ways; however, to succeed in a law firm you must have a good understanding-or at least follow-many of the unspoken rules that govern law firm economics.