What Do You Get For $1,000 An Hour?

That was my question as I read an article in this morning’s Wall Street Journal on the move by certain large law firm lawyers in Manhattan to boost their hourly rates beyond the $1,000 an hour mark. Superstar litigator David Boies, who was quoted in the article, pretty well summed up what I expect is the reaction of most folks who live and work outside the cloistered world of the mega firm lawyers:

Frankly, it’s a little hard to think about anyone who doesn’t save lives being worth this much money ….

Being a firm believer in the free market, I figure that if these lawyers’ clients are willing to pay these fees, let them, regardless of how absurd or outrageous it might seem to pay a lawyer $1,000 an hour. I also agree with litigator Steve Sussman, also quoted in the Journal article, that alternative fees – contingent fees, hybrid contingent fees, flat fees and the like – are better for client and lawyer alike. Sussman says that his hourly rate is $1,100 an hour. His hourly rate is that high in part, he says, to discourage clients from wanting to hire him on an hourly basis. Yet further evidence of the perverse economics that the hourly billing system has bred.

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