The Raveler
May 17, 2017

3 Ways to Decrease Non-Billable Hours for Litigation Associates

Every hour that isn’t billed is painful. Not only does it result in a loss of pure profit, but it also keeps associates further from their annual billing targets. It’s a lose-lose, for partners and associates. There are 3 key ways we see that litigation associates can decrease non-billables.

Play chess, not checkers

While speaking to litigation associates about how they avoid having their research time written off by partners, I consistently hear the same two strategies that leave me bewildered.

Strategy 1, in the words of one associate, goes like this:

When starting my legal research, I run a very broad query, then do several searches-within-a-search to avoid billing my client for running multiple queries.

Strategy 2 is just as convoluted:

I do X activity in one product, and then move over to another product to do Y activity. They both support each activity, but since they have different pricing structures, I feel like I’m saving my client money.

For a profession where time is incredibly valuable, these strategies are egregiously wasteful. The time spent developing and executing these strategies undoubtedly costs more to associates - in the form of being further from their annual billing target - and to partners,  because this work will likely be written off instead of passed through to the client.

Interpret data through a dynamic prism instead of in a static list

When was the last time you went to page 7 of a Google search? How about page 2? Most people don’t look beyond the top 10 search results; those 10 results typically give you want. Legal research however, is a different animal. The first ten cases are the tipping point of research; depending on your search terms, critical cases can be buried 50th, 60th, or even 70th in your list.

Legal research tools that offer “data visualization”, i.e., which create a visual display of case results to communicate context, help attorneys get a better grasp of how the law they are researching maps. It’s much easier to digest the entire landscape of the law in this type of format and critical cases that likely would have otherwise been neglected are surfaced and added to the argument.

Prevent tabs from taking over your life

This “after lunch problem” plagues litigation associates at every firm:

After coming back from lunch, I have trouble remembering where I left off in my legal research. As a result, I spend a lot of time retracing my steps to figure out how the 15 open browser windows containing case law fit into my research process. Have I read them all? Are they relevant? What was my next step?

This is nightmarish for every associate. The time spent untangling their research process is not subsidized by the client (a loss for the firm) and keeps them at working late into the night (a loss for them). This problem can be particularly addressed by intuitive, next generation technologies that allow litigation associates to scan multiple relevant cases at the same time by consolidating reading, into one screen.


It’s no mystery that inefficient tools cause inefficient work. Next-generation tools like Ravel address these problems head on and make it easy to find the case law you’re looking for. Make life better as an associate. Make operational efficiency better as a law firm.

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