Business of Law

Top partner billing rates at BigLaw firms approach $1,500 per hour

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Despite efforts by corporate clients to curtail legal expenses over the past decade, rates have risen steadily at many of the nation’s BigLaw firms.

Although a billable rate of $1,000 per hour was newsworthy only five years ago, top partners at the nation’s biggest and best-known corporate law firms are now billing at rates nudging $1,500 per hour, according to the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.).

With the help of public filings in Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases, the newspaper was able to confirm hourly fees of as much as $1,475 at Proskauer Rose, $1,450 at Ropes & Gray and $1,445 at Kirkland & Ellis. Rates at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom topped out at $1,425.

John Altorelli of DLA Piper tells the newspaper that his own billable rate exceeds $1,500 per hour. However, more than half of his matters involve a fixed-fee arrangement, he said.

“We just raise them every year,” Altorelli said of his firm’s hourly charges for attorneys’ work, adding: “Using hourly rates is really anachronistic, but we still do it.”

A Wall Street Journal Bankruptcy Beat (sub. req.) article says some lawyers charge as much as $2,000 per hour, but doesn’t offer any specific examples.

Related coverage: “Is It Really $1,000/Hour? Or Just $900?” “More Top Lawyers Break Through $1,000 Hourly Billing Barrier”

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