August 22, 2007

"We have viewed $1,000 an hour as a possible vomit point for clients."

Seriously, how much can a lawyer charge an hour?

Here are the guys -- they're all guys -- who aren't cowering in the 900s anymore. They've cast off that fear of the fourth digit and demanded what they know they deserve.

IN THE COMMENTS: Ruth Anne writes:
Big deal. You charge $1000/hour for eating egg salad sandwiches.

$200 for 1 sandwich which took approximately 12 minutes = $1000 for a whole hour of egg salad sandwich eating.
That was funny... until I read the words "a whole hour of egg salad sandwich eating." Then, it was terrifying.


Sloanasaurus said...

Doctors still bill a lot more. I got a bill for $500 the other day for a ten minute visit with my doctor. Of course the Insurance company paid for it.

Slim999 said...

Wow ... that's ironic.

I've always viewed the average lawyer as a vomit point.

SteveR said...

Its takes a lot of money to pay for those hair styles, ask John Edwards.

I would say the accuracy of the billable time charged, is more important than the rate. Bathroom breaks (ca ching), phone calls home (ca ching), conversation with partners about alma mater football game (ca ching).

hdhouse said...

I had an attorney once from a major K street firm in DC. He was a senior partner and purported to be a good friend. He used to call me every morning to see how I was doing, how was my golf game, how's the wife and kids, yada the 1980s his billing rate was $350 and hour if he did the work or if he had his associates do it...

you got it. each call cost me either 175 or 350 bucks plus the long distance as he reached out to me every morning. first bill i got was 90 days in for a huge amount including about 30k for conferences.

vomit point is not ahead of "choke" point in my book.

MadisonMan said...

I wonder if the present attorney general will be able to charge $1K/hr like a former attorney general does.

Peter Palladas said...

Call me 'Cut Price' Charlie, but I'll vomit on a lawyer's shoes for half that.

Simon said...

At a $1000 per hour billing rate, the price of gold is $42.2222 per ounce (per U.S. treasury), so a lawyer of c.160lbs will earn his weight in gold in any litigation where he can bill 108 hours or more. Now, whether they're worth their weight in gold is dependent on the outcome, one imagines. ;)

Pogo said...

""Frankly, it's a little hard to think about anyone who doesn't save lives being worth this much money," says David Boies, one of the nation's best-known trial lawyers"

I spent 90 minutes with an 80 year old woman today. Fighting cancer, losing weight, passing out. Quite complicated, really.

Medicare limits her fee to $128.75. Next year, the fee will be reduced to $116.

My computer died this past weekend. 45 minute diagnostics plus new hard drive, sound card and TV tuner: $295.

Advice to smart young students:
Don't be jealous, be chastened.
Go to law school.
Stay far away from nursing school.
Stay farther away from med school.

dbp said...

Lots of people with very high incomes work more than 40 hours/week, but lets just use that figure. 40 hours/week times 50 weeks gives 2000 hours/year. If you earned $1000 for each hour, that would be $2,000,000.

Lots of actors, professional sports players and investment bankers make much more than that. I think the problem is the per/hour part. I don't think most people are dismayed that other folks make $2 million/year. It just seems like there is no level of skill or expertise worth $1000 per hour.

David said...

The silliest thing in the WSJ blog is this: The $1,000 per hour rates are in part a response to booming costs, like $160,000 salaries for first-year associates. Associates are a profit center, although granted first year associates aren't the gold mine that third and fourth year associates are.

Original Mike said...

At that rate I want a chip embedded in their brains monitoring when they're think about my case and when they're thinking about something else.

Hey said...

dbp is absolutely right. consulting, law, and accounting have done vast damage to their professions by using a superficially easy hourly billing rate.

no one really cares how many hours a task takes, they just want it done for a price that matches its value. lawyers work tends to be isolated from specific value creation points, and thus no one really knows what to charge or what to accept. billing by the hour creates huge productivity discincentives since the firm can only bring in between 1500 and 3000 "hours" per professional. given the intelligence, education, and experience of the people employed, all of these professions have horribly limited their revenues by sheer laziness.

using 2k hours as the probable average billed (it may be less, but we'll use a clifford chance type firm) and $400 as the average rate (taking into account discounts off list and the composition of the firm) that's roughly 800k/professional, a very poor comparison to finance, software, or energy. Goldman Sachs has revenues of roughly $1.2M per employee (including support staff, not just professionals).

The time of most senior partners is worth far more than $1k/hr, but given the difficulty of changing their business, they don't capture the value of what they do and put too much effort into useless things. Chaging the billable hour is exceptionally hard (all of the firms are working on it and have been doing so for a very long time, but are hampered by the structure of their organisations and the independence of their professionals who are congenitally unwilling to go through the pain).

Methadras said...

Look, the bottom line is, that this is why people are ambivalent, apathetic, and are angry about the law profession where these types of outrageous rates can be charged. I recognize that in a free market the market will bear the rates that can be charged vs. those who are willing to pay it. But when it's coupled with the umbrella effect that the law encompasses on all of our lives, the law profession really needs to evaluate how these charges affect those that will need them. And that's really the crux of the problem.

George said...

So that's why all those people were puking in "The Invasion."

SnowDahlia said...

What they deserve? That's a joke, right? The excellent brain-power these lawyers expend on their clients is equal to the brain-power a bazillion other professionals (and non-professionals) expend on their clients. Perhaps the whole lawyerly profession needs an urgent self-esteem adjustment, in the downward direction.

jimbino said...

We will never get legal representation at a fair price until we rid ourselves of the bar monopolies. In the meantime, we should start employing arbitration agreements specifying Mexico as the venue. That would help some.

Alberti said...

They're all guys

So what! Why is that relevant?

They are also all white. Why didn't you mention that?

Sexism, sexism, sexism. And/or envy.

The Drill SGT said...

OK, folks, a couple of math and business facts:

1. Simon, good try but gold is only measured in "Troy" ounces at 12 per pound, not 16 using "avoirdupois" ounces.

2. dbp, good try, if a billing attorney got to take home what they billed. However, consulting firms have lots of expenses. facilities, fringes, technology and most importantly for your education, the salaries of all the support folks who dont direct bill.

so some of that 1000/hour goes to the secretaries, rent, health care for everybody, profit for the owners, etc.

the "wrap" rate, which is the multiple of an hourly salary that accounts for all those other changes can vary from 1.6 for firms that place all their staff onsite at customer locations, to 3.5 for firms that have gyms and onsite daycare, etc.

so If I get paid $104,000 per year and that works out to a cost/hr of $50 (2080 housr basis). and if the wrap factor is 2, then if I work 1880 hours for customers (2080 - 80 holiday - 120 vacation) then then I bill the customers $188,000 to my customer.

The Drill SGT said...

an interesting bit of trivia from one of the bio's that demonstrated the abysmal failure of the "law enforcement model for fighting terrorists"

As Attorney General of the United States, Mr. Civiletti argued before the International Court of Justice on behalf of the American captives in Iran

we should have sent B52's. The Russians would have understood. Their approach to kidnapping response is pretty direct.

C. Schweitzer said...

Slightly OT: Since you are exploring your past a bit in NYC, is there a chance that you might comment (perhaps in a podcast or vlog) on the Althouse sojourn as a practicing litigator?

What kinds of cases did you handle? Any interesting ones that stand out now? Why didn't it appeal to you as a long-term career?

Titus12 said...

I am horny.

XWL said...

Not to pick on you Simon, but the price of gold hasn't been around $40 an ounce since I was crapping in diapers.

It closed at $668.70 per troy oz on the commodity exchange today according to

A troy ounce is about 10% larger than the ounces we normally use to measure weight (31.1g compared to 28.3g) so your 160lb lawyer is roughly 2330 troy ounces (160lbs is 2560 oz, then multiply that by .91 to get the weight in troy oz, and by doing the conversion at the ounces level you don't have to worry about the fact that one kind of ounce takes 12 to make a pound while the other takes 16).

At today's close number of $668.70 you'd come up with around a total value of weight in gold of just over $1,558,000 dollars.

That would be 1558 billable hours at $1000/hr. A lawyer could still reach that over the course of a long trial, but they wouldn't be able to do that in two or three weeks like with the 108 billable hours number you came up with.

But given DBP's statement above, it's clear that the lawyer doesn't get all the loot from all those hours, so to actually get to the point where a lawyer was taking home her value in her weight in gold (making the lawyer a she makes it easier to assume 160lbs, I think most grown men exceed that by a few $100,000) $1,558,000 for a particular case, something else would have to factor in.

In other words, when doing word/math problems, always show your work, and convert units, makes things much easier.

Now enough math, time to get ready for some CNN related drunk-blogging . . .

The Drill SGT said...


good lesson, but your math is off and I think it is much easier to stay troy and go there fastest. cnaceling units along the way.

160 lbs x 12 troy ounces /lb = 1920 troy ounces

1920 ounces x $668.70 /ounce = $1,283,904

two simple steps

duck said...

I wonder if any of that 1000.00 an hour has anything to do with places now outsourcing legal services to countries like India?

"Jones Day, Kirkland Send Work to India to Cut Costs "

Cedarford said...

As the Owner/Lawyer elites and goverment supergrades (80% lawyers) consider all other jobs "fair game", somehow I get tremendous pleasure from knowing that Lawyer outsourcing is finally happening as the Bar monopoly breaks down and multinationals find no shortage of Filipino, Israeli, Indian lawyers quite willing to do, for 80-100 bucks a billable hour, what no 1,000 buck an hour USA lawyer will do.

And average Americans, if all their jobs are on the chopping, block under Globalism, Jewish Transnationalists, Ruling Elites detrmination to create a race to the bottom labor pool in all unskilled and skilled labor to sest serve the Top Level Capitalists - those average Americans are now showing they will cross borders for cheaper dental care, med care, would love to see foreigners replace US CEO fatcats at 1/5th the cost. To do the "jobs No American is Willing to Do, just to screw the fatcats.

America is now the 2nd highest per capita lawyer-soaked nation, next to Israel. That is no nation to emulate. The less welfare mammies, lawyers, quasi-traitors transferring what is left of American high technology, hi-tech jobs to China and elsewhere overseas, the better.

David53 said...

The median US household income is around $45,000. If your household makes more than $100,000 a year, congrats you're in the top 10 to 15 percent of wage earners.

I don't put lawyers into the same category as entertainers or financial advisors. Everyone needs a lawyer at least once or twice in their lifetime. You don't have to watch Brad Pitt movies or go to a ball game or invest at Goldman Sachs if you don't want to. You will eventually need a lawyer.

If you know that half of the US households make less than 45K a year how can $1000 an hour not be above the puke point?

The Drill SGT said...

for some work you want the very best and $1000/hr or even 50,000/hr might be reasonable.

If I have a merger or acquisition for 2 billion, I want the best advice possible, cause the other guys are hiring the best as well.

If I take a big corporate case at the appellate level or defend a class action case at the trila level, my payout could be a billion. buy the best.

I had heart surgery. I know the procedure must have been 5k/hr maybe 10k. I bet neuro surgeons get more. ou dont get many second chances when they are cutting.

buy the best.

Ruth Anne Adams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maxine Weiss said...

"They're all guys"

And, they all have wives.

It's not such a bad thing.

Jim Howard said...

Lawyers make a lot of money because they have a monopoly to broker the police power of the state. Not because of their wise counsel.

Lawyers are the ultimate rent seekers. They are to our economy as the AIDS virus is to the human body.

If we don't do something to devalue the legal profession as compared to jobs that actually create wealth then we are doomed as a country.

Simon said...

XWL - I pulled the figure off the US Department of, IIRC, Commerce website - but if they're wrong, they're wrong. ;) So let's refine the point and say that for any antitrust that makes it into discovery, the litigator will ultimately bill his weight in gold.

The Drill SGT said...


assuming you read it right, and I stipulate you can read, that web site hasn't apparently been updated since 1971, the lat time gold was at $42.

Theo Boehm said...

Cedarford has made some good populist points that, frankly, ought to be to the forefront of the modern Left's critique.  Not that I necessarily agree, but I think it's a good thing to be discussing the contradictions and failures of capitalism.  I'm especially interested in how in the last 35 years it has reinvented itself, so that it has become almost completely immune to any genuine radical analysis.  Capitalism (or the "free market," if you prefer) has become an almost untouchable principle, even as multinational corporations and soi-disant liberal Western governments seem about to deliver us into a weird post-modern feudalism.  Some free market.

Anyway, there might be something to chew on here, and Cedarford has said a few words pointing to it.  But why, oh why does Cedarford always have to bring up the Jews?  This offhanded bigotry moves the discussion not in the direction of the economic future and the moral choices before us, but straight back toward the disgusting history of Jew-baiting.  (And I'm not mentioning the H-word.  We're not going there.  That is another huge thought-stopper.)

Saying "Jewish Transnationalists" just slashes the heart out of any subsequent discussion.  Who can make the Lou Dobbsian case for economic policies to benefit the working middle class—not to mention a more radical critique—when lurking in the background is a reference that has just made you cringe and quickly move on.

Here's a little William Dean Howells reworked:

There comes Cedarford, bigot, who never will budge,
Three fifths of him genius and two fifths sheer fudge.
.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

Who has written some things quite the best of their kind,
But there're passages in 'em make you fear for his mind.

Cedarford said...

Boehm - Highlighting Jewish Transnationalists is no different than saying that there may be other terrorists, but for now, radical Islam is predominant.

We see famous transnationalist progressive NGOs, like Amnesty, COMINTERN, Soros Foundation, Soros Open Society, Human Rights Watch, Doctors without Borders. All set up by Transnational Jews. The ACLU has been under a Far Left Jewish Director since Aryeh Neier's reign in the 60s.
And the Networks that are formed are truly impressive. A Jewish cosmopolitan lawyer may start with ACLU fieldwork, then go to Dord Foundation, then to Human Rights Watch, up to DC to lobby for Open Borders for illegals and "heroic refugees" then back to a communist Front group masquerading as progressive who help draft "international Law" for the UN aimed at banning private gun ownership.

The Jews are brought up because they can also be great enemies of Western Civ.
Just like radical Islam is.

Revenant said...

We see famous transnationalist progressive NGOs, like Amnesty, COMINTERN, Soros Foundation, Soros Open Society, Human Rights Watch, Doctors without Borders. All set up by Transnational Jews.

Bear in mind that Cedarford is using the Nazi definition of "Jew" here -- i.e., anyone with recent Jewish ancestors, regardless of whether or not the person was religiously or ethnically Jewish or considered to be Jewish by other Jews, is "a Jew" to Cedarford.

Thus, the Roman Catholic founder of Amnesty International becomes "a Transnationalist Jew" by virtue of having had a Jewish father.

The Christian baptism and upbringing of the Communist International's premiere founder, Lenin, is ignored in favor of his having had number of Jewish ancestors.

The founders of Médecins Sans Frontières become "transnationalist Jews" by virtue of having had some Jewish doctors mixed in with the Christians. Ditto for Human Rights Watch.

I realize that pretty much everyone here already knows that Cedarford's just a crazy Jew-hater -- but I thought I'd provide some details anyway.

Eli Blake said...


Be glad you have insurance.

The 46 million people who don't, would get the bill for the whole $500, likely not be able to pay it all, and as such wouldn't go get treated until/unless they were at death's door-- when they would show up in the ER, get treated at a cost of thousands instead of hundreds, which they certainly wouldn't be able to pay, so the hospital would jack up the rates charged to your and others' insurance companies to cover the shortfall, which is why the going rate is so high in the first place and your doctor can get away with charging your insurance company $500.

My doctor, on the other hand, charges people what they can afford. But he is a 65 year old, rural doctor who has worked in the same community for decades and still will make house calls for some of the older people-- he is a vanishing breed.

Eli Blake said...


I guess that means he must also hate Jesus and all the apostles, because they were all Jews too.

Seven Machos said...

Dammit, Cedarford. They aren't Jewish transnationalists. They are simply transnationalists. It's like saying Jewish abortion protesters or Jewish people who are for really easy immigration. What could religion possibly have to do with it, man?

I add here that it isn't surprising to see a lot of Jewish people being transnationalists. Jewish people were without a country for hundreds of years. It makes sense that a people without a country would think in non-national terms.

I have said this before but I'll say it again. Your posts are too long but you have many good things to say. When you tinge what you say with a prejudice against Jewish people, it sets you back. William Buckley was right to throw the anti-Jewish crowd out of the right, and you are wrong to lace what you say with criticism of Jews where it doesn't belong.

Stop it.

Eli Blake said...

Expensive lawyers may not always be the answer though.

I'm sure Michael Vick paid his lawyers a lot more than his co-defendants paid theirs. So all three of them cut plea deals earlier while Vick's lawyers were out there denying he had anything to do with his own house, and now Vick has no choice except to plead guilty, go to prison and hope he gets back to the NFL while he still has some ability left.

He'd be a lot better off if he had been the first guy to crack and turn state's evidence. But clearly his expensive lawyers gave him some bad advice.

Theo Boehm said...

Seven Machos put it bluntly and well.

I'm well aware of Cedarford's attitude, but I thought this might be an occasion to chide him for it directly, but also to use a little humor mixing praise and blame to keep the discussion going in as civil a way as possible.

The problem with Cedarford's remark about the Jews is, where does it go?  If we're discussing an economic or social issue, what possible use is it to know that Jews are involved in one way or another?  Should they be excluded and send back to the Ghetto and Judenstraße?  Is someone talking Final Solution?  It makes no sense to simply call out some ethnic group in a discussion, because there is nothing that can or should be done.  We live in a multi-racial and multi-ethnic society, and that's the end of it.

rdkraus said...

Two points:

First, as I said long ago about Martha Stewart, I could have lost her case for a lot less money. Even I would have told her not to "chat" with the Feds, and I don't do much in the crim field.

Second, usually I would be very sympathetic to the licensing "bar to entry" as a reason lawyer prices are high, but really, can anyone argue that there is a scarcity of lawyers in this country? In Wash DC? In any metropolitan area?

No, remarkably enough, the guys who can charge $750 or $1,000 an hour can do so because they are perceived as having a special ability to get the job done, and people are willing to pay more for them. Those clients could easily go elsewhere for legal services.

MadisonMan said...

that web site hasn't apparently been updated since 1971, the lat time gold was at $42.

I would say that a political appointee of the President decided that the best interests of the Republican Party Under God would be better served with a cheaper price of gold. So the price was changed.

Richard Fagin said...

Well let's see....I spent five years obtaining patents for a client, who has probably paid me on the order of $100,000 for my time. That's at an average billing rate of $340 per hour. The client has no revenue earning assets, essentially no income, and yet he just received an offer to buy his company that included $10 million in cash (much more in the purchaser's stock). What's his company worth without those patents? Close to zero.

Would the client still have come out ahead if he'd paid me $1000 an hour or $300,000 for the same work product? You do the math.

In 1992 I spent 3 days, yes, only three days in the hospital getting a broken hip "bolted" back together. The total bill - this was for ONLY 3 DAYS - was $16,500. The surgeon charged $3200 for 45 minutes work. Do I resent the cost? The alternative was 12 weeks in a body cast. Was it worth that much money? You do the math. I don't begrudge the doctor one red cent.

The question is whether those clients are getting value for $1000 an hour. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don't.

Is Bill Gates worth the millions per hour he makes? My $500 computer that runs on his software lets me gross close to a half million a year all by myself. No employee, no capital investment. There are millions more like me.

You do the math.

bwebster said...

Big deal. You charge $1000/hour for eating egg salad sandwiches.

$200 for 1 sandwich which took approximately 12 minutes = $1000 for a whole hour of egg salad sandwich eating.

Does that mean if we raise $1000 for Ann, she has to spend a whole hour eating egg salad sandwiches? Hmm.... ..bruce..

Ruth Anne Adams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Revenant said...

The 46 million people who don't, would get the bill for the whole $500, likely not be able to pay it all

First of all, there are 44.8 million people without insurance as of 2006 (the last year for which full data is available) -- not 46.

Secondly, 9.4 million of them are noncitizens. There is absolutely no reason for us to be providing them with health coverage they can't pay for. If they want free health care they can damned well immigrate to Canada instead.

Thirdly, of the 35.4 million American citizens (naturalized and native-born) without health insurance, only 8.6 million are below the poverty line. There are, of course, already countless government programs to help these people pay for medical care.

Finally, in every income category except "no income", people *with* health coverage vastly outnumber those without -- which basically proves that there is no such thing as being "too poor for medical coverage".

So no, Eli, it is not "likely" that the person can't pay the bill. It is in fact overwhelmingly likely that they have the capability to pay the bill, although of course they may prefer to spend their money on other things and skimp on their medical care -- that is, after all, the REAL reason why most uninsured people are uninsured.

Government census table creator here