When law firms apply for their fees to be paid by a bankruptcy court, they must disclose their attorney’s hourly billing rates. Those rates for 18 major US law firms are available in the Am. Lawyer, Feb. 2010 at 45, as median partner and associate rates as well as the individual rates of 21 high-billing partners.
A diligent beaver could assemble a comprehensive set of such rates and thereby create a comparative billing-rate service. We would have to know that partner rates in bankruptcy practices are in line with partner rates in other practices, but assuming they are, general counsel would have available detailed benchmarks. For example, they could see whether the rates charged them, and the “discounts from standard rates” that are so hard to confirm, are as represented (See my post of Aug. 4, 2009: Laffey matrix.). They could quantify the cost advantage of regional and local law firms.