Billable Hours and Ordinary Time: An Empirical Study
Cathleen Kaveny May 23, 2013 - 11:22am
Before going to teach at Notre Dame Law School, I practiced law for three years in a large law firm setting. Like many young attorneys, I found the system of billing very difficult and in many ways alienating. After leaving practice for the academy, I wrote an article entitled "Billable Hours in Ordinary Time: A Theological Critique of the Instrumentalization of Time in Professional Life." The article contrasted the "billable hours" mentality with the view of time--and of human life--embedded in Catholic theological and liturgical practice. It was published in the Loyola University Chicago Law Review and, in a slightly different version, in Communio, over a decade ago.
To my great surprise, a couple of professors from Stanford Business School and the University of Toronto (whom I did not know) came across the article, and decided to see if they could empirically confirm some of my observations. (The idea that someone might actually test what normative thinkers like theologians and philosophers claim came as a great surprise to me!) According to a recent blog post, I guess they think I was right! Actually, anyone who has ever heard third and fourth year associates talking about billing hours wouldn't doubt it.
On a broader point, one of the reasons I object so much to the culture wars is that their focus on hot button moral controversies occlude other ways that Catholicism (and other religious traditions) might offer a helpful, critical perspective on life in America today. Religion isn't merely a delivery system for moral norms. The normative framework offered by religion extends beyond a list of moral "do's' and "don'ts." And I say that as a moralist.
About the Author
Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.