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De jure “standard hourly rates” but de facto “discount crazy quilt”

In-house attorneys who advocate discounts from standard billing rates assume law firms still maintain standard billing rates. Like the astronomical room rates that used to be common on the doors of hotel rooms, “standard rates” may be fading into myth. Few of them are charged.

The ACC Docket, Vol. 27, March 2009 at 12, informs us that according to the most recent Serengeti survey, the third most common retention term required by in-house counsel is “discounts from standard hourly rates (59.0%).” Thus, right after requesting monthly bills and bills that have a certain format and data, almost two-out-of-three law departments mandate discounts.

Soon it will be the odd duck out that pays rack rates. “Standard hourly rates” will be like C grades at elite colleges: a theoretical possibility, but not actually observed in the wild. Instead, firms and clients mate with a wide array of discount levels and arrangements, such as tiered or retrospective or only applicable under certain conditions (See my post of Jan. 21, 2008: 10 more posts with variations on discounts; and Dec. 26, 2008: third metapost on discounts, with 12 references.).