A report in the February 23, 2011, on-line edition of the ABA Journal recounts the upward number of lawyers who are now billing at over $1,000 per hour. http://www.abajournal.com/weekly/article/more_top_lawyers_break_through_1000_hourly_billing_barrier?utm_source=maestro&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weekly_email
Interestingly (but not surprising), all of the lawyers named in the report do corporate law work. Topping the list is a “corporate lawyer” who bills at $1,250 an hour. This reminds me that when I first started practicing 37 years ago, I was billed at $25 an hour. (Many people did say I was overpaid at that rate!) I was lucky if I made $1,250 a month.
In doing legal bill review work for insurance companies, I do not see too many legal bills from large law firms that do “corporate” legal work. However, I do get to see some from time to time when I do work for corporations or high net worth individuals who have hired a large law firm. What I do see in legal bills from large law firms often “boggles the mind and staggers the imagination” as an old boss of mine used to say.
Forget about the high rates. What I see are things in legal bills from large law firms that are clearly unethical as well as contrary to well settled case law. Is there anyone out there who really believes a lawyer can work 18+ hour days or that you should pay paralegals $250 an hour just to upload documents into the firm’s database or pay a clerk $160 an hour to deliver documents?
Why do these lawyers bill like this? Well, it’s easy to see. It is because their corporate clients let them get away with doing it.
This is why I find it amusing, if not ironic that many in the corporate legal community are at the forefront of the movement to alternative legal fees as if AFAs will lower their legal costs. I have a message for those in the corporate legal community who are pushing AFAs as if AFAs alone will lower their legal costs: just do a better job in reviewing your legal bills before you pay them!