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NLJ Covers NALFA’s Annual Litigation Hourly Rate Survey

July 12, 2024

A recent NLJ story by Abigail Adcox, “DC Litigators Outpaced All Other Cities on Billing Rates in 2023” reports on NALFA’s 2023 Litigation Hourly Rate Survey & Report.  The story reads:

Washington, D.C., ranked as the city with the highest billing rates for litigation in 2023, according to a new survey from the National Association of Legal Fee Analysis.

A quarter of survey respondents in D.C., which included full-time equivalent litigators, both defense and plaintiffs counsel, fell within the highest tier, tier 4, with billing rates in the range of $951 to over $1,300, the highest percentage out of the 24 cities tracked.

Comparatively, in San Francisco, which had the second highest litigation billing rates last year, only 13% of respondents fell in tier 4, according to the survey.

“It’s top [litigation] billing city, and it’ll probably be so for the next several years. I mean, no one comes close to Washington in terms of billing and litigation,” said Terry Jesse, executive director of the National Association of Legal Fee Analysis, a nonprofit that undertakes fee analyses for courts and private clients.

A little over 2,000 attorneys in D.C. responded to the survey, including litigators practicing at large law firms, midsized law firms and solo practitioners. Overall, roughly 24,000 litigators participated in the survey across the U.S.

In D.C., of the 2,000 respondents, 101 reported billing rates between $1,201 to $1,300 and 97 reported billing rates over $1,300.

Overall, 2% of D.C. litigators fell within tier 1 billing rates (less than $450); 22% fell within tier 2 billing rates ($451-$700); and 51% fell within tier 3 rates ($701-$950).

Jesse indicated that the large presence of major law firms in D.C. was likely one reason for the region’s high billing rates. And the small percentage of billers in tier one may be attributed to higher associate starting salaries.

“Starting salaries have gone up. And thus there’s a correlation between compensation and rates. So what I think is going on is that first-year associates are starting their rates higher, more on the second tier,” said Jesse.

Overall in 2023, billing rate increases and demand helped D.C. firms end the year with a strong financial performance.

Average billing rates in the D.C. region rose 8.8% compared with the industry average of 8.3%, according to Wells Fargo’s Legal Specialty Group’s year-end survey results. Those results included eight firms headquartered in the D.C. region. That came as demand picked up in litigation and regulatory practices in the region.

Billing rate hikes aren’t expected to slow down in the near-future either. A recent survey showed that 86% of large firms in the U.S. and U.K. expect to increase billing rates over the next 12 months, with nearly a fifth of respondents expecting them to increase between 41% and 60%, according to reporting from The American Lawyer.

The Nation’s Top Attorney Fee Experts of 2024

March 14, 2024

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 and ethical billing practices. 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 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 2024:

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

"ABOTA Trial Attorney With Over 35 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

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

Federal Judge: Can’t Use ChatGPT to Justify Attorney Fees

February 22, 2024

A recent Law 360 story by Madison Arnold, “Law Firm Scolded For ‘Misbegotten’ ChatGPT Use in Fee Bid”, reports that a Manhattan federal judge criticized a special education-focused law firm or citing ChatGPT calculations to back up its attorney fee request of more than $100,000, calling the move "utterly and unusually unpersuasive."  U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer knocked the fees for the Cuddy Law Firm PLLC down to just $53,050.13 plus interest for work done in a case brought by a parent on behalf of a child against the New York City Department of Education involving two administrative hearings.

The firm had asked for $113,484.62 plus interest after securing judgments against the department, saying the feedback from the generative artificial intelligence program supported its request.  "As the firm should have appreciated, treating ChatGPT's conclusions as a useful gauge of the reasonable billing rate for the work of a lawyer with a particular background carrying out a bespoke assignment for a client in a niche practice area was misbegotten at the jump," Judge Engelmayer wrote.

An attorney for the department, Tom Lindeman, said in a statement to Law360 Pulse that his side is pleased with the decision.  "The firm's use of ChatGPT to support its aggressive fee request was deemed inappropriate and, as the court determined, the city's prior offer to resolve fees was fair and reasonable," Lindeman said.  The parent of an unnamed child, referred to as G.G., hired the Cuddy Law Firm.  G.G. has hyperactivity disorder, a language disorder, a developmental coordination disorder and acute stress disorder, according to the decision.

The child's parent, referred to as J.G., initiated two due process hearings, alleging in the first that the department failed to provide the child with a free appropriate public education for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years.  That included failing to provide annual reviews, evaluations and appropriate education services and implementing special education teacher support services, as mandated by the child's individualized education program from January 2018.

The Cuddy Law Firm sought compensation for its work in both hearings and resulting fees litigation.  While the firm doesn't rely predominantly on ChatGPT-4 in arguing for its billing rates, it did present the findings of the AI program as a "cross-check," Judge Engelmayer said.  He added that the law firm failed to identify any information it inputted into ChatGPT for it to rely on to confirm its calculation, among other omissions.

"The court therefore rejects out of hand ChatGPT's conclusions as to the appropriate billing rates here.  Barring a paradigm shift in the reliability of this tool, the Cuddy Law Firm is well advised to excise references to ChatGPT from future fee applications," the judge said.  Because of the inefficiencies of the ChatGPT argument, as well as its other arguments, the court decided to reduce the attorney fees awarded to the Cuddy Law Firm.

"For the reasons stated, the court grants J.G.'s motion for an award of fees and costs, but in an amount below that sought.  J.G. is awarded $52,386.01 in fees and $664.12 in costs, for a total of $53,050.13, plus post-judgment interest at the applicable statutory rate," Judge Engelmayer said.  Outside the ChatGPT issue, the court reduced the fees in part because the parent and the Cuddy Law Firm had not given evidence that the case presented novel or complex legal or factual issues.

ALM Covers NALFA’s 2023 Litigation Hourly Rate Survey & Report

February 2, 2024

A recent Law.com story by Michael Mora, “Where Miami Ranks in States Litigators Charge Highest Attorney Fee Rates,” reports on NALFA's 2023 Litigation Hourly Rate Survey & Report.  The story reads:

The National Association of Legal Fee Analysis released new intelligence providing micro and macro data of hourly rate ranges for both defense and plaintiff lawyers, which one attorney-fees expert said is the confluence of the coronavirus pandemic changing the geography in which people are living and working and the emergence of Miami on the national scene.

And that expert, Edward Mullins, a partner at Reed Smith in Miami, is not involved in the study.  The Am Law 100 firm attorney said he was surprised by the portion of all rates in Miami being at 18% in the most expensive tier and suspected that it is due to the influx of major law firms entering into the market in the last few years.

“Many of the new lawyers coming in are working not on local work, but more likely are doing work that is based in other areas like New York or other areas from where they are emigrating,” Mullins said.  “These new lawyers are integrating their N.Y. rates into the market and increasing the rates, but I don’t think that the rates charged for local work are increasing at the same pace.”

The NALFA empirical survey and report provides that micro and macro data, which, in addition to ranging from defense and plaintiff attorneys, does so at various experience levels, from the largest law firms to solo shops, in regular and complex litigation, and in the nation’s largest markets.  Over 24,800 qualified litigators participated in the survey.

Here, there are four categories: tier one, which ranges from $250 to $450; tier two, which runs from $451 to $700; tier three, which ranges from $701 to $950; and, tier four, which runs from $951 to over $1,300.

Nationally, Washington, DC, has the largest tier four percentage at 25%; then falling to a tie in second at 18% with Miami and New York.  For tier three, Washington has the highest percentage by far, at 51%; with San Francisco in second at 32%, and New York tied for third at 30% with multiple cities, including Boston and Los Angeles.

As for tier two, New Orleans and Las Vegas garnered the highest percentage at 44%; followed by Phoenix, Arizona, and San Francisco, at 43%; and, several cities fell closely behind, including Dallas and Denver with 42%.  And, for tier one, New Orleans has the most, standing at 39%, while Phoenix sits at 35% followed by Las Vegas at 33%.

NALFA Releases 2023 Litigation Hourly Rate Survey & Report

December 27, 2023

Every year, NALFA conducts a survey of prevailing market rates in civil litigation in the U.S.  Today, NALFA has released the results from its 2023 hourly rate survey.  The survey results, published in the 2023 Litigation Hourly Rate Survey & Report, shows billing rate data on the factors that correlate to hourly rates in litigation:

City / Geography
Years of Litigation Experience / Seniority
Position / Title
Complexity of Case / Practice Area
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 of hourly billing rates in litigation.

This is the fourth year in a row NALFA has conducted this hourly rate survey.  The 2023 Litigation Hourly Rate Survey & Report contains additional categories and more accurate variables.  These updated features allow NALFA to capture new and more precise billing rate data.

Through its propriety email database and digital infrastructure, NALFA surveyed over 495,000 attorneys from thousands of law firms and law offices from across the U.S.  Over 24,800 qualified litigators participated in this hourly rate survey over a 10-month period.  This data-rich survey was designed to aid litigators in proving prevailing market rates in court and comparing their billing rates to their litigation peers.

Law 360 Covers NALFA Program

June 30, 2023

A recent Law 360 story by Lauraann Wood, “Class Benefits Becoming Larger Factor for Fees, Experts Say”, reports that class action fee awards are experiencing a shift in which counsel's...

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