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Insouciant rate increases for 2009 projected by managing partners

General counsel have squeezed to wring out law firm expenses, but new data suggests the sponge will keep expanding. The American Lawyer obtained survey responses from managing partners and firm leaders at 112 US law firms, Am. Law., Vol. 30, Dec. 2008 at 93. “Ninety-eight percent of respondents to our survey said that their rates will be higher next year, though 63 percent said the rise will be 5 percent or less.” Who knows if the ravages of the economy will temper those higher charges.

One managing partner defended the rate increases on the basis of service and value: “The raw rate issue is lower on the scale than what kind of service and value the firm is providing.” Translated: “Our clients may wring their hands, but not us.”

A final note. “Seventy-five percent who responded to the survey said that their clients are requesting discounts.” That flaccid statement helps very little. I wish there were data on the level of discounts sought, the percentage of fees that might be subject to the discounts, and the percentage of fees actually subject to discounts at different levels. Am I greedy for data or what?