Orrick cuts back on billable hours for European lawyers

Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe may have found the answer to the eternal question of how to run a successful global law firm: realising that European lawyers work differently from US attorneys.

The San Francisco firm has implemented a range of changes to the way its European offices work, including revising billing targets and fee rates to rival more closely its local competitors.

In the US, partners are set an annual target of 2,500 hours, 1,900 of which are billable, which last year was applicable to its European lawyers.

However, since the start of this financial year, Orrick’s partners in Paris, for example, will work towards a target of 1,650 billable hours, while its Milanese partners will aim for 1,500.

The difference between the Anglo and US billing targets is partly based on the fact that the average billing units for a US firm runs to 15 minutes, while it is around six minutes for UK lawyers.

Since the high-profile launch of its Paris arm in November 2002, Orrick has attacked the Continent with fervour by setting up in Milan and Rome through large-scale lateral hires in April 2003 and February 2004 respectively.

While not all the new offices have completed a full financial year as part of Orrick, European revenues are currently running at over €30m (£20.2m).