Paul L. Caron

Saturday, May 30, 2020

BigLaw Associate Billing Rates Surge Past $1,000/Hour


American Lawyer, Associate Hourly Billing Rates Surge Past $1K as Firms Snap Up Bankruptcy Work:

Signaling a new era, some Weil associates are now billing more than $1,000 per hour—a milestone that was surpassed only about a decade ago at the level of Big Law partners—making it one of the first firms to break that pricey barrier.

Weil said in the J.Crew [bankruptcy] filing that it had increased its standard billing rates in October 2019. Members and counsel are now billing from $1,100 to $1,695 at the firm; associates are billing $595 to $1,050; and paraprofessionals are billing between $250 and $435 per hour. ...

Weil isn’t the first firm whose associate rates have topped $1,000 per hour, and its rates aren’t even the highest. When Kirkland & Ellis signed on to represent Barney’s New York—one of last pre-pandemic retail bankruptcies—it said in a filing that associates’ rates reached $1,125 per hour. At Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, at least two associates working on the McClatchy newspaper company bankruptcy have also billed over $1,000 per hour.

Efforts to reign in ballooning law firm fees have received little traction in recent years, though  creditors, shareholders and employees occasionally raise alarms.

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Companies in reorganization are being looted by law firms. Time for price controls on what they can be billed?

Posted by: PaulB | May 30, 2020 11:44:12 AM

Ah, death, dissolution and divorce. Where ownership and stewardship is remote there the lawyers will feast on the cadavers of the fallen.

Posted by: John | May 31, 2020 2:35:36 AM

The fees for corporate bankruptcy are in line with the fees for M&A or IPO work. It may seem worse when the company is struggling than when it's doing well, but it doesn't cost any less to change the capital structure. Investors clearly get a lot of benefit out of an orderly restructuring or liquidation in federal bankruptcy court rather than a free for all at state law.

Posted by: Fees | Jun 4, 2020 1:50:23 PM