Friday, May 28, 2004

Okay, so now I have worked at a law firm for one week. I like it, and it is not as intense as I thought it would be, but this may be because I am not working hard enough. In fact, that is almost certainly the case. My officemate informed me that we are supposed to "shoot for" 7.5 hours of billable and non-billable time. Now the latter category only includes things like official training sessions and adding up your time for the week (yes, they have a special non-billable number just for the time you use to tot up your time!), not staring at the wall, eating lunch, or checking email, so I am in a world of hurt and did not even realize it.

It's a horrible experience to be confronted with how amazingly unproductive you are for most of the day. I can't keep to one task for more than a couple of minutes unless I am totally engrossed by the subject matter. Since that's not always the case with things I don't choose to read myself, I stop a lot in mid page to check email or tidy my desk just to keep my brain alert. If I am not multi-tasking, I drift, but that's not conducive to billing. I am used to being able to do the assigned work in less time than I'm alloted and then being able to relax for the rest of the time. That is not the way this job works. There is always more to do, or more to ask for. And what *did* I do for the three hours or so today that weren't billed? Eat lunch? Surf the web? Walk around the building looking for the associate's office where I was suppose to pick up my new assignment? Should I bill for that? Is it "travel?" (I know it's not.)

This leads to the ugly realization that I only do a few hours of work each day and that the firm is going to think this is bad. I've never had an office job before where they actually expected you to do 7.5 hours of work every day. All my previous employment seemed to acknowledge that a significant portion of time is spent doing things like checking email, printing documents and going to get them, waiting for phone calls, and the like. Of course, maybe the real message is that firms think this also and that's why the typical day is more like twelve hours than eight - to allow for the staring into space and daydreaming and still squeeze a full day's work out of you.

Jeremy's humorous musings aside, this billing thing is no fun.
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