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Category: NALFA News

The Nation’s Highest Hourly Billing Rate City: Washington, DC

August 16, 2022

The old adage that real estate is all about location, location, location may also apply to hourly rates in litigation.  NALFA recently released the results from its annual hourly rate survey of civil litigation in the U.S.  The results, published in The 2021 Litigation Hourly Rate Survey & Report, contains billing rate data on the factors that correlate to hourly rates in litigation: geography, years of litigation experience, complexity of case, and litigation practice size.

This empirical survey and report provides macro and micro data of defense and plaintiffs’ rates in regular and complex litigation, at various litigation experience levels, from large law firms to solo shops, and in the nation’s largest markets.  This is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive survey or study on hourly billing rates in litigation.

Thousands of litigators, defense and plaintiffs’ counsel, from across the U.S. participated in this hourly rate survey.  For the second year in a row, the nation’s top billing rate city is Washington, DC.  When we aggregate all the responses from Washington, DC, 18 percent of the total responses fall within Tier 4 rates ($901-Over $1100), the highest percentage of the 19 cities in the billing rate survey. 

The Nation’s Top Attorney Fee Experts of 2022

August 15, 2022

NALFA, a non-profit group, is building a worldwide network of attorney fee expertise. Our network includes members, faculty, and fellows with expertise on reasonable attorney fees. We help organize and recognize qualified attorney fee experts from across the U.S. and around the globe. Our attorney fee experts also include court adjuncts such as bankruptcy fee examiners, special fee masters, and fee dispute neutrals.

Every year, we announce the nation's top attorney fee experts. Attorney fee experts are retained by fee-seeking or fee-challenging parties in litigation to independently prove outside attorney fees and expenses in court or arbitration. The following NALFA profile quotes are based on bio, CV, case summaries and case materials submitted to and verified by us. Here are the nation's top attorney fee experts of 2022:

"The Nation's Top Attorney Fee Expert"
John D. O'Connor
O'Connor & Associates
San Francisco, CA

"Over 30 Years of Legal Fee Audit Expertise"
Andre E. Jardini
KPC Legal Audit Services, Inc.
Glendale, CA

"Widely Respected as an Attorney Fee Expert"
Elise S. Frejka
Frejka PLLC
New York, NY

"Experienced on Analyzing Fees, Billing Entries for Fee Awards "
Robert L. Kaufman
Woodruff Spradlin & Smart
Costa Mesa, CA

"Highly Skilled on a Range of Fee and Billing Issues"
Daniel M. White
White Amundson APC
San Diego, CA

"Excellent at Communicating Her Fee Analysis to Juries, Triers of Facts, and Clients"
Jacqueline S. Vinaccia
Vanst Law LLP
San Diego, CA

"Real World Billing Review Combined With Over 40 Years of Trial Experience"
Fred M. Blum
Edlin Gallagher Huie + Blum
San Francisco, CA

"Total Mastery in Resolving Complex Attorney Fee Disputes"
Peter K. Rosen
JAMS
Los Angeles, CA

"Understands Fees, Funding, and Billing Issues in Cross Border Matters"
Glenn Newberry
Eversheds Sutherland
London, UK

"Nation's Top Scholar on Attorney Fees in Class Actions"
Brian T. Fitzpatrick
Vanderbilt Law School
Nashville, TN

NALFA Survey: Hourly Rate Data Distribution is Chi-Squared

August 11, 2022

NALFA recently released the results from its 2021 Litigation Hourly Rate Survey.  The results, published in The 2021 Litigation Hourly Rate Survey & Report, contains billing rate data on the factors that correlate directly to hourly rates in litigation: geography, years of litigation experience, complexity of case, and litigation practice size.

This empirical survey and report provides macro and micro data of defense and plaintiffs’ rates in regular and complex litigation, at various litigation experience levels, from large law firms to solo shops, and in the nation’s largest markets.  This is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive survey or study on hourly billing rates in litigation.

Over 8,400 qualified litigators fully participated in this hourly rate survey.  When we plot all responses (plaintiffs' and defense) on a graph (x,y axis), we have a general shape distribution model known as chi-squared distribution.  That is, the distribution is not the classic bell-shaped curve. 

Our model here starts from a low point ($200-$250), peaks before the midpoint ($601-$650), then declines gradually and finishes with a long tail with an uptick at the very end (Over $1100).  It resembles a whale-shaped type distribution.  In the graph below, the y axis is the percentage of responses and the x axis is the hourly rate scale (Less than $200 to Over $1100).

NALFA Releases 2021 Litigation Hourly Rate Survey & Report

July 19, 2022

Every year, NALFA conducts an hourly rate survey of civil litigation in the U.S.   Today, NALFA released the results from its 2021 hourly rate survey.  The survey results, published in The 2021 Litigation Hourly Rate Survey & Report, shows billing rate data on the very factors that correlate directly to hourly rates in litigation:

City / Geography
Years of Litigation Experience / Seniority
Position / Title
Practice Area / Complexity of Case
Law Firm / Law Office Size

This empirical survey and report provides micro and macro data of current hourly rate ranges for both defense and plaintiffs’ litigators, at various experience levels, from large law firms to solo shops, in regular and complex litigation, and in the nation’s largest markets.  This data-intensive survey contains hundreds of data sets and thousands of data points covering all relevant billing rate categories and variables.  This is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive survey or study on hourly billing rates in litigation.

This is the second year NALFA has conducted this survey on billing rates.  The 2021 Litigation Hourly Rate Survey & Report contains new cities, additional categories, and more accurate variables.  These updated features allow us to capture new and more precise billing rate data.  Through our propriety email database, NALFA surveyed thousands of litigators from across the U.S.  Over 8,400 qualified litigators fully participated in this hourly rate survey.  This data-rich survey was designed to aid litigators in proving their lodestar rates in court and comparing their rates to their litigation peers.

The 2021 Litigation Hourly Rate Survey & Report is now available for purchase.  For more on this survey, email NALFA Executive Director Terry Jesse at terry@thenalfa.org or call us at (312) 907-7275.

NALFA Members Quoted in Bloomberg Story on Billing Rates

June 10, 2022

A recent Bloomberg Law story by Roy Strom, “Big Law Rates Topping $2,000 Leave Value ‘In Eye of Beholder’” quoted two NALFA members, John D. O'Connor of O'Connor & Associates in San Francisco and Jacqueline S. Vinaccia of Vanst Law LLP in San Diego, on a news story on hourly billing rates.  His story reads:

Some of the nation’s top law firms are charging more than $2,000 an hour, setting a new pinnacle after a two-year burst in demand.  Partners at Hogan Lovells and Latham & Watkins have crossed the threshold, according to court documents in bankruptcy cases filed within the past year.  Other firms came close to the mark, billing more than $1,900, according to the documents.  They include Kirkland & Ellis, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, Boies Schiller Flexner, and Sidley Austin.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett litigator Bryce Friedman, who helps big-name clients out of jams, especially when they’re accused of fraud, charges $1,965 every 60 minutes, according to a court document.  In need of a former acting US Solicitor General? Hogan Lovells partner Neal Katyal bills time at $2,465 an hour.  Want to hire famous litigator David Boies?  That’ll cost $1,950 an hour (at least).  Reuters was first to report their fees.

Eye-watering rates are nothing new for Big Law firms, which typically ask clients to pay higher prices at least once a year, regardless of broader market conditions.  “Value is in the eye of the beholder,” said John O’Connor, a San Francisco-based expert on legal fees.  “The perceived value of a good lawyer can reach into the multi-billions of dollars.”  Law firms have been more successful raising rates than most other businesses over the past 15 years.

Law firm rates rose by roughly 40 percent from 2007 to 2020, or just short of 3 percent per year, Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor data show.  US inflation rose by about 28% during that time.  The 100 largest law firms in the past two years achieved their largest rate increases in more than a decade, Peer Monitor says.  The rates surged more than 6% in 2020 and grew another 5.6% through November of last year.  Neither level had been breached since 2008.

The price hikes occurred during a once-in-a-decade surge in demand for law services, which propelled profits at firms to new levels.  Fourteen law firms reported average profits per equity partner in 2021 over $5 million, according to data from The American Lawyer.  That was up from six the previous year.

The highest-performing firms, where lawyers charge the highest prices, have outperformed their smaller peers.  Firms with leading practices in markets such as mergers and acquisitions, capital markets, and real estate were forced to turn away work at some points during the pandemic-fueled surge.  Firms receive relatively tepid pushback from their giant corporate clients, especially when advising on bet-the-company litigation or billion-dollar deals.

The portion of bills law firms collected—a sign of how willingly clients pay full-freight—rose during the previous two years after drifting lower following the Great Financial Crisis.  Collection rates last year breached 90% for the first time since 2009, Peer Monitor data show.  Professional rules prohibit lawyers from charging “unconscionable” or “unreasonable” rates. 

But that doesn’t preclude clients from paying any price they perceive as valuable, said Jacqueline Vinaccia, a San Diego-based lawyer who testifies on lawyer fee disputes.  Lawyers’ fees are usually only contested when they will be paid by a third party.

That happened recently with Hogan Lovells’ Katyal, whose nearly $2,500 an hour fee was contested in May by a US trustee overseeing a bankruptcy case involving a Johnson & Johnson unit facing claims its talc-based powders caused cancer.  The trustee, who protects the financial interests of bankruptcy estates, argued Katyal’s fee was more than $1,000 an hour higher than rates charged by lawyers in the same case at Jones Day and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom.  A hearing on the trustee’s objection is scheduled for next week.  Hogan Lovells did not respond to a request for comment on the objection.

Vinaccia said the firm’s options will be to reduce its fee, withdraw from the case, or argue the levy is reasonable, most likely based on Katyal’s extensive experience arguing appeals.  Still, the hourly rate shows just how valuable the most prestigious lawyers’ time can be—even compared to their highly compensated competitors.  “If the argument is that Jones Day and Skadden Arps are less expensive, then you’re already talking about the cream of the crop, the top-of-the-barrel law firms,” Vinaccia said.  “I can’t imagine a case in which I might argue those two firms are more reasonable than the rates I’m dealing with.”

Article: What is a Legal Fee Audit?

October 7, 2021

A recent article by Jacqueline Vinaccia of Vanst Law LLP in San Diego “What is a Legal Fee Audit?,” reports on legal fee audits.  This article was posted with permission.  The article...

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