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Unbalanced focus on high-end billing rates

The 2007 ALM Research Survey Report on Billing Rates & Practices summarizes data from 5,058 law-firm respondents. From this group, which I assume to be reasonably representative of law firms in the United States that are not large, the average billing rate was $240 an hour and the median rate was $225 an hour.

Amid all the breast-beating and hair-pulling about stratospheric billing rates – $1,000 an hour by the top handful of star partners at the most prestigious law firms – it is a tonic to see that most of the country’s lawyers have remained fiscally modest (See my post of April 8, 2007: broadside against boosts in billing rates.).

The report also notes that the “average required billable hours for small and mid-size firms for partners was 1,701 and for associates was 1,755” (See my posts of Feb. 17, 2008: assumption of 1,850 hours as standard; and Feb. 23, 2008: annual average increases in rates.).