US firms to up charge-out rates by 6 per cent in new year

Tom Clay

The average increase anticipated by the 688 firms surveyed by legal consultant Altman Weil was 3.2 per cent. Firms with a headcount of more than 1,000 reported an average increase of 4 per cent, with smaller firms anticipating a 3 per cent rise.

The vast majority of firms predicted an increase in fees of 2-5 per cent. Less than 1 per cent of those surveyed plan to decrease their rates, with 8.5 per cent saying they will maintain 2009 rates and 6.7 per cent anticipating a hike of 6 per cent or more.

“Although these results may seem to contradict some expectations for rate freezes in 2010, this is a relatively conservative rate increase by law firms that are struggling to balance their own business perspective with the needs of their clients,” said Altman Weil principal Tom Clay.

“Most firms are making careful, considered increases – often client by client or lawyer by lawyer – unlike prior years, when across the board increases were typical.”