Soaring Out of Sight: Billing Rates Climb To $2,000 an Hour at Some BIG Law Firms

story in the February 9 Wall Street Journal reported that billing rates at some BIG law firms had risen $1,500 an hour despite weak demand and low inflation. Now, according to a study published in May by BTI Consulting Group, the top rate at some BIG law firms has risen to $2,000 an hour.

It seem like it was only yesterday (actually it was 5 years ago) that I posted two pieces on lawyers at BIG law firms that were charging $1,000 an hour. In one blog post, I wondered why it was that some corporations were willing to pay such high hourly rates when very good lawyers at much lower billing rates were readily available.

I answered that question in a follow-up blog post when I reported that an expert who regularly consults with big corporations told me that big corporations actually view lower billing rates at a firm as a negative. Apparently very good $500 an hour lawyers are not looked at in the same favorable way that mediocre $1,000 lawyers are simply based upon their hourly billing rates. For more insight on this issue, you might want to read my blog post entitled “Why Corporate Lawyers are From Mars and Claims Managers are From Earth.”

Of course, as I have warned many times in the past in this blog, BIG law firms and overbilling go hand-in-hand. This is why  in a post entitled “Getting Caught up in BIG Law Firm’s Protocol,” I warned against ever, ever, ever hiring a BIG law firm to do what a smaller law firm can also do. This is because my experience has taught me that BIG law firms are  the worst of the worst when it comes to overbilling clients.

Over the years, I have reviewed legal bills from thousands of law firms throughout the U.S. involving every type of legal matter imaginable. Invariably whenever I have reviewed legal bills from BIG law firms, the results are the same. BIG law firms always overstaff, overwork, overbill, and most importantly, they tend to overlook any real opportunities to quickly and efficiently resolve a matter for a client.

And I am not the only one who believes this. I have heard this time and again from other lawyers – especially those lawyers who have taken on clients that were the subject of abusive billing by BIG law firms. To illustrate my point, in a recent post on a state bar listserve I belong to an attorney was seeking help for a potential client who had left a very large law firm because he was tired of being overbilled by multiple attorneys who were doing the same work and not getting anywhere.

So if you have a friend who is thinking about hiring a BIG law firm – no matter how big or serious the matter is – don’t let her do it! Warn her that she is likely not only letting herself in for overstaffing and overbilling, but very likely for an unsatisfactory result as well.


If you have questions on legal bills from BIG law firms, please feel free to contact me for answers at Dealing with BIG law firm invoices is my specialty. 

Using “Rules of Thumb” and Common Sense in Reviewing for the Reasonableness of Time Billed

Unlike coming up with a list of non-billable “tasks,” coming up with a “list” of how long it should take to do things is difficult to do. But while it may be difficult to do, it is not impossible to use some basic “rules of thumb”  in reviewing billing entries for the reasonable of the time billed – especially if you also use some basic common sense.

Below are a few of the rules of thumb I use.

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