Today LexisNexis® CounselLink released its 2022 Annual Trends Report. The unstable economy and a tighter legal market have not caused law firms to pull back on billing rates. To the contrary law firm partner billing rates rose faster last year than they have in a decade.
The average partner rate increased by 4.5% (compared to 3.4% in 2021 and 3.5% in 2020). Average rate increases were up compared to 2021 in all law firm tiers and practice areas.
“Inflation affected most sectors of the economy in 2022, and legal services were no exception,” said Pam Gelfond, VP and GM of LexisNexis Legal Business Solutions. “We hope our report can help the legal community understand where costs are rising fastest, and we know our tools can help them successfully navigate what’s ahead.”
The CounselLink trends report, now in its tenth year, draws on CounselLink’s extensive database of over $52 billion in legal spending across more than 420,000 timekeepers and more than 1.4 million matters. It provides detailed insights on seven key metrics, including law firm consolidation, alternative fee arrangements, and hourly rates by practice area, firm size, and location.
“This report furthers CounselLink’s mission of providing corporate decision-makers with world-class solutions to inform their legal staffing choices,” Gelfond added.
The report’s other key findings include:
- Partners from the largest firms (those with more than 750 lawyers) charged 46% more on average than partners from the next tier of firms (501-750 lawyers). That gap has narrowed from 54% in 2021, primarily because rate increases for partners in the second tier of firms outpaced those of partners in larger firms.
- The “Largest 50” firms increased market share from 44.8% in 2021 to 47.3% in 2022, with the largest gains coming in Corporate, Regulatory & Compliance, and Real Estate practice areas.
- High numbers of billers are performing minimal work on any given matter.On average, 37% of lawyers working on a matter will bill fewer than five hours to it.
- Corporate counsel can mitigate individual attorney rate increases by adjusting staffing mix. For example, even though the median M&A partner rate increased by 6.4% in 2022, the median M&A blended average rate was flat compared to the prior year.
“Corporate legal departments are facing increasing pressure to do more with less. Our latest CounselLink Trends Report provides insights that can be leveraged to negotiate fees, utilize different law firms, and inform staffing decisions,” said Gelfond. “We’re excited to also provide new analysis this year on the number of lawyers billing per matter. The CounselLink benchmarking database is a gold mine, and we continue to look for new ways to harness the information contained in it to help legal departments improve performance.” The full CounselLink Trends report is available for download at https://counsellink.com/trends/