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All Hail Benjamin Civiletti

The TaxProfBlog links to an interesting article in the National Law Journal about rising attorney billing rates. One partner in particular, Benjamin Civiletti, charges $1,000 per hour:

The partner charging up to $1,000 an hour at Venable is Benjamin Civiletti, the firm chairman and a 70-year-old partner in the firm’s Baltimore office who was the U.S. attorney general under President Jimmy Carter. He specializes in internal investigations and corporate defense. “That’s a rate that he charges for the most extraordinary work,” explained James Shea, the managing partner of Washington-based Venable, of the $1,000 rate. Shea said it was doubtful that Civiletti is the only partner at a major U.S. firm who charges $1,000. Civiletti raised his highest hourly rate from $810 in 2004 to $1,000 this year. Shea said the firm raises its rates based on the development of certain practice areas, and a demand for certain types of work.

Associate billing rates top out at $835 per hour at Dorsey & Whitney in Minneapolis. MN.

Under a normal market analysis one might conclude that a lack of sufficient attorneys is helping to push rates upward. But the law is one of the few professional industries to still govern intself, and as such there is little incintive for existing attorneys to expand the pool. Moreover, like nearly every other market for services or services, some clients – particularly wealthy individuals and corporations – will spare no expense to get “the best.”

Update: In response to the post below about a new law school, Leo Morris touches on a number of these themes.