📋To Bill or Not To Bill, That Is The Suit
No one wants to be the lowest biller in the office, but is it a lawsuit-worthy offense? Larson Latham Huettl, a firm out in North Dakota seems to think so. As AboveTheLaw.com notes, the firm “sent bills to two former associates alleging 'overpayment' when the associates didn’t bill enough. The firm took both to court and won—both cases are on appeal.” The cases seem to hinge on the Larson Latham Huettl's employment agreement, which states that if an “Associate bills out less than the base quota for a three month [sic] period, the Associate’s salary will be reduced appropriately at the discretion of LLH in order to make up for any discrepancy.”
The employment agreement was apparently sent in March 2020, when work dried up across the industry due to the pandemic.
While Larson Latham Huettl's lawsuit is both highly unusual and ties back to March 2020, it does take place against a backdrop of widespread layoffs in the legal industry. With the economy tightening, Big Law has been on a hiring freeze over the last few months, even resorting to a tactic of lowering an associate's billable hours then firing them over their lack of hours.
Always read the fine print. It's a helpful tip for life, but especially if you're a new associate reading the employment agreement of a firm. We don't believe this is a tactic other firms will start implementing, but the rule of thumb still stands.