The typical law office spends 45 to 50 percent of the fee dollar on the expenses of operating the office. These funds go for non-lawyer salaries, rent, telephone, library, equipment, supplies and other facilities. The comparison of overhead percentage ratios is, in fact, quite a game among some lawyers. We are often asked: "What should a law firm's overhead ratio be?" An answer such as 45 percent, derived from some recent survey, will often satisfy the questioner; or he may be unhappy because he realizes that in his shop, the figure is higher, say 55 percent.
Actually, the percentage ratio of overhead is quite unimportant and firm to firm comparisons of this number may be misleading. One Western firm of three lawyers that provided information to the authors for 1987 showed an expense ratio of 60 percent. Non-lawyer salaries alone were taking 30 percent of every fee dollar. Some firms of that size can operate on a 38 percent total expense ratio!
But the lawyers of that firm averaged income of $175,000 each in 1987, a figure far above normal. The firm used paralegal assistants and modern techniques to improve the productivity of its lawyers rather than hiring more lawyers. Such innovations change overhead ratios from the "norms" quoted in some quarters, but the dollar rewards of such organization speak for themselves.
In calculating the percentage of gross receipts spent on overhead, the compensation of all lawyers is normally excluded. That is, all payments to lawyers are treated as part of "profit." Unless this is done, a firm will be unable to compare its own year-to-year overhead ratio. Here's why:
Want to continue reading ?
Become a subscriber to LawCrossing's Job Seeker articles.
Once you become a subscriber you will have unlimited access to all of LawCrossing Job Seeker's articles.
There is absolutely no cost!
Already a member? Login | Forgot your password
LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys
jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit www.LawCrossing.com.
The website is really very easy to use.
LawCrossing Fact #178: Our team of hundreds of programmers and writers focuses on the employment industry!
Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom
Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom
You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays
You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts
You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives
Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.
Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.
To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.