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Industry Report Breaks Down Attorney Billing Rate Trends by Practice Areas

associate billing

The new trends report by CounselLink Enterprise Legal Management is one of a kind because it does not depend upon surveys and responses, but does analysis of actual legal bills and invoices sent by law firms to find out the trends.

The recent report took into account data from over 5 years and showed the going hourly rates of attorneys by practice areas, locations, sizes of law firms, and also showed the which practice areas are visibly growing or declining. While the report “ELM Trends Report: Growth in M& A Billings Benefits ‘Second Largest’ Law Firms,” goes into many things, we are actually most interested in the hourly billing rates and their growth according to practice areas.

All rates quoted in the report are on the basis of law firm bills based on trailing 12-months ending in December 31, 2013.

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Hourly billing rates of attorneys by law firm size:

The report, based on actual analysis of bills, found average hourly rates by law firm size to be ranging widely between small and big law firms. While law firms with 1-50 attorneys charged $275 per hour on average, firms with more than 750 lawyers charged $630 by the hour. Among law firms ranging from 51-100 attorneys to those with 201-500 attorneys, average hourly billing remained at $370 without size of law firm having any significant impact on billing rates. The first jump, from $370 per hour to $525 per hour happens with firms which have 501-750 attorneys. And the next jump is into big law.

Law firm partner hourly billing rate by practice area:

The report finds the following practice areas having the highest hourly law firm partner billing rates in descending order: Mergers and Acquisitions – $589; Corporate, General, Tax – $533; Regulatory & Compliance $475; IP-Trademark $470; IP-Patent $435; Finance, Loans and Investments $431; Commercial and Contracts $400; Employment and Labor – $375; Real Estate – $360; Environmental – $360; Litigation – General – $343; and Insurance – $179.

According to the report the average hourly billing rates are affected across practice areas depending upon the types of law firms chosen by companies for each type of work. When it comes to seeking external legal counsel, companies gave 29% of M&A work and 33% of corporate legal work to the big law firms, which bill the highest. However, for all other legal work, the same companies chose big law only for 19% of their work and gave more than 80% of their work to other smaller law firms.

You can access the entire report here.

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