Billing rates going up

December 2, 2009
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Clients are going to have to pony up a little more cash next year for their lawyers. According to an Altman Weil survey on 2010 billing rates, only about 10 percent of firms surveyed plan to maintain their current billing rates or decrease rates. The average rate increase is projected to be about 3.2 percent.

Many of the firms said they felt pressure from clients to not raise rates, but felt it was necessary because they froze rates in the past few years. Some also said the move toward alternative fee arrangements makes the hourly rate increases “increasingly irrelevant.” A few firms noted the increases they’ll make aren’t nearly as much as they had in previous years.

Some firms will pass along the higher rates only to new clients or in certain practice areas. Associate billing rates will be the mostly likely to see the increase, and a higher rate increase to boot.

“Many firms feel the need to cover their associate costs with rate increases,” said Altman Weil principal Tom Clay. “And because associate rates are lower, increases there may attract less comment from clients than increases at the partner level.”

The AW survey includes comment from respondents regarding why they are or aren’t raising rates. Some interesting ones:

- “Firms need to push back on the clients' unreasonable demands to hold rates at 2008 levels and give a 15% discount off of those rates.”

- “We froze our rates moving from 2008 into 2009. I hear managing partners speaking of freezing rates moving into 2010. We can't sit out two years without changing, so we are going to do so, hoping that client goodwill from last year will cushion us at this year's hike.”

- “We don't even try to raise rates every year. The greedy SOBs that do have antagonized the entire industry to those of us who only seek to raise rates when economically necessary (and PPP isn't economic necessity).”

What’s your firm’s strategy in terms of billing rates for next year? Is increasing rates a better alternative than cutting attorneys for firms looking to find more cash?
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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