In Legal Business, Iss. 179, Nov. 2007 at 30, the magazine mentions data about billing rates of UK law partners. After casually stating that “billing rates have generally increased above the rate of inflation over the past year” the article offers some nose-bleed charge out rates.
“The average partner in the UK’s Global Elite now charges £565 per hour, compared to £400 per hour for a major City partner, £360 per hour for London midsizers and insurance firms, £250 per hour in Scotland, and between £230 and £250 per hour for LB100 partners in the rest of the UK.” At this morning’s exchange rate, that average partner at a Magic Circle firm (See my post of March 30, 2006 with references to four of the five firms; and June 18, 2007 which collects references to all five firms.) racks up $1,157 each hour he or she attends to a client! Hardly less expensive, the major City partners are at $819 an hour while the bargain-basement partners at the low end of this group bill at around $490 an hour.
Some of the disparity between these rates and the rates of partners in the US at comparably large firms might be blamed on the exchange rate. It may also be that US partner log more hours in an average year. Possibly, but only possibly, UK megafirms have less leverage or exact fewer hours from assistants (See my posts of March 6, 2006 about Italian firms being the most profitable in 2005 and UK firms reporting median profits per partner of €529,800; and my post of Dec. 11, 2007 with data on billable hour targets.) But the billing-rate difference – and I am pretty sure there is a difference – in hourly billing rates is still large (See my post of Jan. 16, 2006 with some billing rate comparisons.). British companies should offshore to the low-cost US law firms!