Australian Lawyers Vote Timesheets Must Go

A recent article in Lawyers Weekly reported on the results of an online survey, with 200 Australian lawyers responding.

Alhough obviously not a scientific survey, when 43% conclude that timesheets are “intolerable” and greatly contribute to them not enjoying their work, it at least gives us a vector of people’s feelings on the effectiveness of this measurement device.

More encouraging, 20% of respondents “said they see timesheets as part of an outdated business model which needs to change, while 10% said they find them ‘stressful.'”

“Only 8 per cent of respondents said they do not have any issues with timesheets, while 19 per cent said they don’t like them, but can live with them.”

Encouraging results. And no, we here at VeraSage didn’t vote early and often.

I recently gave a talk at the ABA Legal Rebels program in San Francisco. It was a six-minute format, where you had to have 20 slides, timed to transition every 18 seconds.

This is one of the hardest formats I’ve ever attempted. That Winston Churchill crack about (paraphrasing here) “If you want me to speak for eight hours, I’m ready now; if you want me to speak for 10 minutes, I need two months,” is so true.

The one comment that got the most attention, based on Retweets and feedback I received was this: “The timesheet is the real cancer in the legal profession; the billable hour is a symptom.”

We can’t bury the billable hour until we bury the timesheet. The two are inextricably linked.

Logic and settled economic theory says that hours are not an effective measure of a knowledge worker’s value.

Then he who says A must say B.

Hours, then, are not an effective measure of knowledge worker efficiency or effectiveness. Period. You can’t have it both ways.

Some lawyers in Australia, and certainly in the USA, are beginning to see the light.

(Note: The videos of the ten presentations at the ABA Legal Rebels session will be posted over the next couple of months).


  1. David Garnsworthy says:

    Yes Ron of course you are right. Uunlike US lawyers Australian Lawyers need to thinl also about 2 things. First costs disclosure and second the operation of item and in part timebased scales. I am not suggesting there is no scope for value pricing but the two things need to be taken into account. We need not only to take into account the change in the culture of our profession but the ways costs are regulated so the scales have to change as well. I have some ideas as to how we tackle this but don’t pretend to have all of the answers. But lets hear some discussion about this.

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