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What are Average Lawyer Fees Per Hour in the US?

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Legal services within the United States are notoriously costly. Legal practitioners tend to be highly educated individuals who demand a high rate of return for their services. Further, the costs associated with running a legal practice (office, databases, personnel, marketing, etc.) can be quite high.

This reality does little to explain what a client can expect to pay for the legal services of an attorney in their area. In this article we discuss the various considerations for what the average lawyer’s fee will be in an area.

 

Average Legal Fees Per Hour

There is no simple way to address the hourly legal fees of practitioners. The reason is that attorneys practicing different types of law charge different hourly legal rates. More technical fields, such as intellectual property law, tend to charge higher legal rates than less-technical areas, such as insurance defense practice. Further, the amount of legal fees charged per hour by a large law firm may be higher or lower than the legal rate charged by a small firm or solo practitioner. Lastly, the location of the legal firm strongly affects the average hourly legal rate. The most informative information on lawyer fee rates was conducted by Clio, a widely-used legal practice software company, in a 2017 Legal Trends Report. To summarize the findings:

The hourly legal rate across the US for lawyer fees was $260, and $240 for law firms. Of the major cities within the US, Philadelphia was the lowest legal rate, with an average hourly rate of $245. New York City was the highest legal rate with an average hourly rate of $344.

With this information in hand, you can estimate what you will be expected to pay a legal practitioner for her services. You can adjust this amount upward or downward based upon the type of legal services you need and your legal budget.

 

A Matter of Economics

Of course, the ability of a service provider to charge a particular legal rate should be based upon principles of economics. The attorney is offering a service that has value to clients. A client’s willingness to pay for these legal services is based upon the strength of the want or need and the availability of these legal services as well as their legal budget. This is known as demand. If legal services are generally high need, this allows the attorneys to charge more money for her time. On the other hand, there are lots of legal practitioners in the US market. The ability to find other legal practitioners to provide the legal service (and the price competition among them) pushes down the price to customers. This is the supply side of the equation. The price at which the demand for legal service and the fees intersect tends to be the average price charged by legal practitioners. If the number of legal practitioners in a state are increasing, rates should, in theory, decrease. However, if the demand for legal services rises, the legal fees that individuals can charge for their time may rise as well.

 

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