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Questioning the Billable Hour

Most top grossing law firms use a billable-hour system in order to charge clients. However, it is a flawed system with exorbitant rates that pressure and take advantage of clients. It also virtually eliminates access to the legal system for low-income individuals. Working class people cannot afford to pay the average $500 per hour for a junior associate’s legal work.† Access justice would like to see a change in this system.

 

A Washington Post article states:

In the first quarter of 2013, the 50 top-grossing U.S. law firms boosted their partner rates by as much as 5.7%, billing on average between $879 and $882 an hour, according to Valeo Partners. Rates for junior lawyers, whose labors have long been a profit engine for major law firms, jumped even more….This year, for the first time, the average rate for associates with one to four years of experience rose to $500 an hour, according to Valeo.
For full article: On Sale: The $1,150-Per-Hour Lawyer

These numbers are based on the legal-spending data from more than 17,000 law firms. Clearly, attorneys’ hourly rates are skyrocketing. But why?

 

A New York Times OP-ED article states:

The billable-hour system is the way most lawyers in big firms charge clients, but it serves no one. Well, almost no one. It brings most equity partners in those firms great wealth. Law firm leaders call it a leveraged pyramid. Moss associates call it a living hell…. For clients, the consequences of a billable-hour system can be absurd…. Why do clients tolerate this perverse system? Periodically they rebel, especially during economic downturns, but those revolutions are short-lived and unsuccessful.
For full article: The Tyranny of the Billable Hour

Access Justice would like to see one of these revolutions succeed. What information are we left with though? The billable-hour system is “seriously flawed.” And attorneys’ hourly rates have increased and currently range from around $500 to over $1,000 (on average).

 

Let’s now contrast the above content with Access Justice: AJ offers low bono legal services that are never more than $99 per hour. Never.

 

 

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