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The Laffey Matrix for outside counsel costs

Dan Williams of t-Mobile earns a big thanks for telling me about the so-called Laffey Matrix. The matrix is a table of hourly rates for outside attorneys and paralegals prepared by the Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. The rates are intended to be used in cases where a “fee-shifting” statute permits the prevailing party to recover “reasonable” attorney’s fees.

I look at the Laffey Matrix as a guideline for general counsel to reasonable hourly rates for external counsel. Begun in 1983 by a district court decision involving a plaintiff named Laffey, the matrix gives rates for 20+ year lawyers, 11-19 year lawyers, 8-10 years and two more brackets. Each year the US Attorney’s Office adjusts the rates according to changes in the cost of living as measured by the Consumer Price Index in Washington-Baltimore.

For June 1, 2008 to May 31, 2009, the top rate is $465 an hour, then for 11-19 years is $410 an hour and so forth down the chart. Perhaps other US Attorney’s Offices calculate equivalent rates for their cities.