Just a dozen years ago, a handful of lawyers in Texas breached the $1,000 hourly rate barrier.
The $1K lawyers were the best of the best in their practice areas: trial lawyers Steve Susman, Tom Melsheimer, Charles Schwartz and Harry Reasoner for bet-the-company litigation, or deal lawyers like Jeff Chapman, Andy Calder, Tom Roberts or Michael Dillard to lead mega-billion-dollar transactions.
There were scores and scores of lawyers who had billing rates between $950 and $990. There was a hesitancy to cross the $1,000 line for fear that clients would revolt.
A handful of Texas lawyers now charge $2K per hour and several more are expected to hit $2K an hour next year. Above is a sample from federal bankruptcy records.
Many corporate general counsel complained and protested, but they still paid. As a result, a stream of lawyers boosted their rates and crossed into four-digits.
This year, a handful of Texas lawyers broke through another billing barrier: $2,000 an hour.
Lawyers who top the list, according to data and legal industry sources, are David Wheat and Scott Price at Kirkland & Ellis, Vineet Bhatia and Neal Manne at Susman Godfrey. Melsheimer at Winston & Strawn and Dillard at Latham & Watkins are still near the top of the list.
The hourly rates are made public via Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings and petitions for lawyer fees in complex litigation matters.
Dozens of New York-based lawyers raised rates above $2,000 an hour two years ago, and their numbers now count into the hundreds.
But Texas lawyers still come with a discount — albeit a much smaller one than they offered a decade ago.
There are specific data points regarding those lawyers who are billing at $2K an hour or who are likely to hit that mark in the next year. For example:
- Most of the Texas lawyers who have hit or are approaching $2,000 an hour work at a handful of law firms, including Kirkland, Latham, V&E, Simpson Thacher, Susman Godfrey, Weil Gotshal and Gibson Dunn. Note that all except V&E and Susman Godfrey are based out of state. All these firms also rank among the Texas Lawbook 50’s top firms for revenues per lawyer and profits per equity partner, and all were among the Texas Lawbook 50 elite law firms ranking.
- Most of the lawyers represent private equity firms or large corporations facing multibillion restructurings or transformational M&A deals.
- Lawyers in specialties such as tax, executive compensation, corporate finance and high-stakes litigation demand the biggest rates.