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Atlanta’s Troutman Sanders and Mays & Valentine are both “lifestyle-focused.” Don’t believe it? Just ask the attorneys at both firms. Troutman Sanders and Mays & Valentine announced last week that the two firms will merge on Jan. 1. Like all merger partners, they offered up the by-now expected observations about similarities in culture at the firms. In this case, however, the cultural similarities may not be an exaggeration. Lawyers at both firms say their employers are mindful of attorneys’ lives outside of the workplace. For example, when a Mays & Valentine senior partner called Hugh B. Wellons into his office, Wellons feared he would be reprimanded. Instead, the partner asked if Wellons was having any problems. The cause for concern: Wellons was billing too many hours, and the senior partner wanted to make sure Wellons still had an active life outside the firm. Wellons has since left Mays & Valentine after working there for 11 years. He left, he says, to move to Roanoke, Va., to be closer to an ailing family member. Now a partner at Roanoke’s Flippin, Densmore, Morse, Rutherford & Jessee, Wellons still thinks highly of his old firm and says, “They really try to do things a little differently there and try to ensure that people have lives outside the office.” At Troutman Sanders, where the annual associate billable expectation is 1,800 hours, the culture is similar, according to managing partner Robert W. Webb Jr. The billing expectation itself, however, is similar to that found at other big Atlanta firms. Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan’s minimum for its associates is also 1,800 hours, according to the firm’s managing partner James L. Henderson III. Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue’s annual chargeable goal is between 1,900 and 1,950 hours, says managing partner George T. Manning. Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker has an annual goal of 2,000 hours for associates. Washington-based Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner also has an annual goal of 2,000 hours. Working fifty weeks during the calendar year, an associate must bill 36 hours each week to meet the 1,800-hour requirement. The associate must bill 46 hours per week to meet a 2,300-hour goal. Whether an associate must be at the office for more than 36 hours per week to meet this goal depends on that associate’s productivity, says fifth-year Troutman associate Evan H. Pontz. “There are days when it’s easy to do eight, nine, 10 or 11 hours of billed time,” he says. But sometimes, says Pontz, associates have to make more of an effort to maximize billable time while at the office. If Pontz wants to charge 12 hours in one day, for example, he says he closes his door, stops answering his phone, ignores e-mails and will “shoo away people who want to talk about non-work” issues. Pontz notes that at Troutman, first-year attorneys do not have to worry about the chargeable hour requirement because all work the associate charges is applied to the 1,800-hour goal, even if all the hours are not billed to the client. “Our definition of a Troutman lawyer has been the same for 25 years,” says Webb. “We expect people to be great lawyers who care about our clients and each other, and the ‘and each other’ is what defines us.” Webb says that certain programs at the firm contribute to the progressive culture. The firm provides a mentor to each associate as well as a liaison to each lateral the firm hires. Mentors and liaisons, Webb says, provide a sounding board for associate concerns of any kind. Troutman Sanders associate Ashley Z. Hagar says she came to the firm because it was mindful of associates’ lives outside the office. Hagar says that former Gov. Carl E. Sanders, chairman and name partner of the firm, encourages this mentality. “Gov. Sanders used to tell every associate when they joined the firm that he wanted you to wake up in the morning excited to go to work, and he wanted you to be excited at the end of the day to go home,” Hagar says. Other associates agree with Hagar. “There’s no question in my mind that it’s a lifestyle firm,” says Pontz. Pontz says that one indication of Troutman’s concern for attorney lifestyle is that the bonus system has a ceiling of 2,300 hours. Associates who bill more than that amount annually will not receive a higher bonus than those who bill 2,300 hours. “They don’t want to incentivize people working more hours,” Pontz says. Neither Jones, Day nor Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan give hours-based bonuses to associates, according to Manning and Henderson. Paul, Hastings gives a bonus of $15,000 for associates who bill 2,400 hours. Alston & Bird gives a 10 percent of pay bonus for associate billable hours over 2,100. “One of the reasons for the bonus program is that we have people who work 2,400 or 2,500 hours, but we don’t want them to burn out,” says Webb. Pontz also says that his hours vary from day to day but that he only works late at nights or on weekends as his workload dictates. “If you’re here at Troutman at 7 p.m. or on a weekend, it’s pretty much a ghost town,” he says. Mays & Valentine managing partner Robert D. Seabolt says his own firm stresses a concern for individuals, but he would not call it a “lifestyle” firm. “I think a lifestyle firm would put primary emphasis on the comfort of the individual as opposed to the needs of the firm,” he says. “We monitor production at both ends of the spectrum,” Seabolt says. “If an attorney is billing too many hours, we inquire because of the quality of the work and we want to see if we can get that person some help.” Seabolt says that the firm has an annual billable “expectation” of 1,800 hours for associates and a “stated goal” of 1,850 hours. Currently, Mays & Valentine has no formulary bonus structure but gives a discretionary bonus to associates. Mays & Valentine will use Troutman’s bonus system when the merger takes effect in January. Anthony F. Troy, a Mays & Valentine partner who has been with the firm since 1978, says workplace attitudes were a consideration when the firm began shopping for a merger partner. Mays & Valentine’s executive committee met with Troutman Sanders partners in Sea Island in August 1999 for preliminary merger discussions. “The whole purpose of the talk was discussing lifestyles,” says Troy. “The number-one criteria was that collegiality was, in fact, there, and that allowed us to go onto other issues.” Margaret Ann Brown, a Mays & Valentine partner, says she has heard the phrase “lifestyle firm” used in conjunction with her employer. “I think it means the firm is not a sweatshop,” Brown says. Brown has two children, ages 10 and eight, and sometimes leaves work early in the day to pick them up from school. “I’ve never felt that the law firm has frowned on that in any way,” she says.

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