Message to Hullsey: That’s not a big fee…

In VCAT’s Legal Practice List the other day, defending a firm alleged to have charged too much at the rate of $230 an hour, I made the point in cross-examination that London tax silks were wont to charge £600 per hour. As I uttered the words, I was visited by self-doubt. The amount sounded wrong, too much. But hell was I out of date! They don’t charge £600 an hour anymore: they just charge £20,000 ($41,000) an advice. In fact top London firm partners charge between £600 and £1400 an hour. Or so The Times says in a feature entitled ‘Are Top Lawyers Worth Their Huge Fees?’ And the AFR reports today that each of Freshfields, Linklaters, Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance topped the £1 billion mark in turnover, more than half of it from outside London, including China and the Middle East. Victoria’s Attorney General, worried about my confrères’ wont* to charge $14,000 a day has just gotta take a chill pill. This is the most interesting bit of The Times’s article:

‘The law is a polarised profession. While reforms on fixed fees have hit thousands of legal-aid practitioners beavering away in backstreet offices, partners in City law firms are trousering record profits. There are almost 150,000 practising lawyers in England and Wales – up from 91,000 a decade ago. Last year, the top 100 City law firms employed 46,000 lawyers, generating £12.25 billion in revenues and £4.2 billion in profit. This year, at least 800 lawyers will earn £1m or more. They remain largely an Oxbridge elite – over 60% of the top players went to either Oxford or Cambridge, and nearly all were privately educated. …

Rates of charging vary. For City firms these range from £600 an hour to £1,400 an hour for a partner. Leading barristers have a wider spectrum. Tax silks come out on top. When instructing the best tax silks for a conference that might last up to two hours, requiring an additional four hours’ preparation, fees will start at a minimum of £20,000. According to one instructing solicitor: “They very quickly escalate rewards from there – soon reaching £40,000 or £50,000 for more complex work.” At this level, hourly rates up to £4,000 are routine. So who are the key players – and what do they earn’

* No one else ever seems to have written the words ‘confreres’ wont’ onto the internet before. I wonder how many other combinations of not-totally-obscure English words there are waiting to enjoy such webby contiguous propinquity? (Not “contiguous propinquity”)

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