Another law firm has motivated its associates to spend more time rather than less getting their work done. Kaye Scholer is paying upwards of $20,000 in additional bonuses to those who exceed 2,200 hours per year. The firm’s managing partner said this:
At Kaye Scholer, we strongly believe in rewarding our lawyers who not only meet, but regularly exceed, expectations. Every year there are some associates whose performance is truly outstanding, sacrificing from their personal lives to serve our firm and clients. We think it only appropriate that those associates receive a little extra at bonus time, which is why we instituted the two-tier bonus system four years ago, and continued it this year.
Let me offer an interpretation for their clients.
We haven’t figured out how to do work other than on an hourly basis, so we need lots more hours for the firm’s partners to take home their millions. So to squeeze out those hours from our clients, we’ll motivate our associates to spend more time on their matters. So even though our clients would benefit from a focus on efficiency and outcomes, that doesn’t help us–the partners–so we’ll just ignore that and keep doing what we’ve doing.
Kaye Scholer is, of course, not the only firm to use this approach. But they are public about it. I think most firms try to stay under the radar on this because the approach disfavors the firm’s cleints. By now, though, most clients that directly or indirectly support this approach are doing so knowingly and willingly, and there is nothing wrong with clients that want to overpay.