Billing rates see small increase

December 8, 2010
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The National Law Journal’s 2010 Law Firm Billing Survey is out and it shows that firms are still increasing their billing rates, but not as much as in years past.

The average firm-wide billing rate went up by 2.7 percent this year, the second year in a row that rate increases grew by less than three percent. Firms used to increase their billing rates as much as eight percent when the economy was better in the mid-2000s.

Of those firms responding to the survey, 75 percent increased their rates this year; eight percent left their rates the same; and 17 percent lowered their average billing rates.

The survey was sent to the 250 largest law firms in the nation. Three Indianapolis-based firms made the NLJ’s 250 largest law firms list – Baker & Daniels at 152, Barnes & Thornburg at 85, and Ice Miller at 181 – but only Barnes & Thornburg listed its rates.

Barnes reports it has 494 attorneys in its 11 offices around the country with the average firm-wide hourly billing rate of $367; its median rate is $375.

The three firms did provide some information on how they bill rates. They all report they have discounted and blended variations on the billable hour. As alternative billing methods, Baker & Daniels cites hybrid, retrospective, fixed or flat, and contingent; Barnes and Ice both list hybrid, fixed or flat, and contingent.

Cincinnati-based law firms Frost Brown Todd, which merged with Locke Reynolds in early 2009; and Taft Stettinius & Hollister, which merged with Sommer Barnard in May 2008, also participated in the survey. Frost Brown Todd lists 404 attorneys and an average firm-wide billing rate of $279. Its median rate is $280. It reports that 76 percent of its revenue is generated through variations on the billable hour, which are discounted, blended, or “other.” The firm doesn’t have alternatives to the billable hour.

Taft reports 286 attorneys and its average and median firm-wide billing rates to both be $315. It says 40 percent of its revenue is through discounts on the billable hour. Taft reports 20 percent of the firm’s revenue is obtained through alternative billing methods: hybrid, fixed or flat, and contingent.

Frost is ranked 111 on the NLJ’s 250 largest law firms list; Taft is on the list at 149.
 

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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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