It is tough to get meaningful aggregate data on things like solo and small lawyer billing rates, seasonal trends, and which practice areas generate the most income. Most information on those metrics comes from self-reported surveys of solo and small firms. But that introduces selection bias, small sample size, and it’s hard to know if lawyers are reporting accurately.
With the Clio Legal Trends Report, Clio aims to provide the sort of data-driven analysis that has previously been unavailable to solo and small firms.
Clio‘s Legal Trends Report aggregates data from paid Clio subscribers in 2015, which is a base of approximately 40,000 Clio users. (Clio users can opt out, and those who opted out naturally aren’t included in these reports.) Because people use Clio for timekeeping and billing and Clio keeps track of data like firm location and practice areas, Clio can compile that data and come to some large-scale conclusions about solo and small firms. Of note:
- The average hourly billable rate for law firms in the United States (at least those using Clio) is $232 per hour.
- While billable hours have trended upwards during 2010-2016, rates are only just keeping pace with the overall rate of inflation. If you feel like you are making more money but you don’t feel much better off, this is probably why.
- You will find the highest hourly billing rates in the places you would expect: Washington D.C. ($281) and New York ($279). However, the cost of living in those markets is so high that purchasing power diminishes significantly.
- States with large rural populations, like Iowa, Montana, and South Dakota, see some of the lowest hourly billing rates, hovering around $130-$150.
- Bankruptcy practitioners have the highest hourly rates, about $275. Employment law and estates and trusts are in the middle of the pack. Criminal law, the lowest, bills at only slightly over 50% of the bankruptcy rate: $148 per hour.
The Legal Trends Report is available now and has much more detail. Reading it can give attorneys real, quantifiable insight into how to set billing rates to be competitive in their market, which is something everyone should know.