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2016 Citi/Hildebrandt client advisory

Here's the client advisory, it's worth a read for a general sense of the surveyed topics. It's hard to extract specific takeaways out of the advisory, because, who is planning to do precisely what everyone else does, has done, or is planning to do?

Ralph Baxter has a blog post about the report. His four main points about the data itself:

Declining Levels of Work — ... the total amount of work in the full sample is flat, for 100 of the 201 firms, their share of the market was declining in 2015.
Increasing Levels of Expense — ... [due to] an increase in lawyer compensation, driven by increased headcount and higher compensation per lawyer.
Overstaffing — ... increased headcount means that chronic overstaffing continues, with overall “productivity” (billable hours per lawyer) declining ....
Declining Levels of Partner Income — ... for more than 40% of the largest US-based law firms, income per partner will decline in 2015.

My quick take is more questions than analysis.

For "declining levels of work" and "overstaffing", it seems that the unit measure is billable hours at least for staffing, and probably also for total amount of work. Even though billable hours is generally how lawyer productivity is measured and how services are paid for under different criteria, I'm more interested in the number of projects undertaken on an as-paid-for basis. Are there more overall projects, small and large, or less than prior years. Since this survey is high-level, is there really less work or less dollars available to pay for more projects?

Billable hours per lawyer will continue to decline because project budgets are not typically open-ended, as was the case a decade ago, and particular items are no longer permitted to be billed or simply written off today. In other words, does billable hours really measure productivity? Does cost cost or decreased cost measure for a lawyer?

It's late. I'll update this later, but expenses and income to partners go hand in hand. What is strange in the report is the "pro-rata" share of expenses attributed to timekeepers/billers. Seems high overall generally.