Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The $1,000 Lawyer

It is here: the age of the $1,000 per hour lawyer. "'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, at the Armonk, N.Y., office of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP." As the spouse of a doctor, I tend to agree.

But let's look at this from another perspective. Many of the people charging these types of rates are the lawyers you will bring in for so-called "bet the company" work. So these lawyers are not saving lives, but they may be saving companies and helping the lives of all those who are gainfully employed there. (Okay, so I am playing devil's advocate here.)

As for me? No thanks. I like making money as much as the next guy, but the pressure that comes with it is not my cup of tea, at least not at this stage of my career. And even if I did I'm not sure I'd ever get to the $16.67/minute rate anyway. Right now I'm happy doing what I call "important" work (in other words, work that means a lot to a client and for which that client is willing to pay a premium to have it done right) and sometimes even "commodity" (or routine) work. And if that means charging one-third the rate of the big boys (bargain hunters, note), then so be it.

Also, rates like that discourage (or should discourage) clients from hiring the biggest guns in the business for anything other than the most important work. And that is a good thing. Heck, Wachtell has been following that model forever, and it is the most profitable firm in the world.