Vol. 78, No. 12, December
Legal News & Trends
2005 Economics of Law Practice Survey reports
17 percent increase in Wisconsin lawyers' average hourly billing rate
over 2001 figures
The State Bar of Wisconsin recently conducted the 2005 Economics of
Law Practice Survey. A follow-up to the Bar's 2001 report on law firm
economic issues, the 2005 report assists lawyers in measuring their
ability to provide cost-effective legal services.
Mailed to a random sample of 3,000 active resident members, 752
usable questionnaires were returned for a 25 percent response rate. The
survey sought member input on many areas including personal income,
billing practices, hourly rates, overhead expenditures, and support
staff salaries. Net income, gross revenue, and overhead expense
represent 2004 values. All other data represent 2005 values through
April of this year. Following are some noteworthy results.
Personal income. The median net income for all
respondents, full- and part-time is $88,000, up from $72,000 in 2001.
The mean net income of $114,797 varies considerably depending on
practice location. The full report breaks down personal income figures
by a variety of factors in addition to practice location including
principal position, field of law, years in practice, gender, and firm
Hourly rates. The average hourly billing rate is
$171, up from $146 in 2001. The median is $165, up from $135 in 2001.
The full report breaks down hourly rate figures by a variety of factors
in addition to field of law including principal position, office
location, years in practice, and firm size.
Fee billing. Nearly four in 10 attorneys said they
use contingent fee billing - 37 percent as compared to 58 percent in
2001. The full report includes typical flat fees charged for such
services as simple wills, directives to physicians, deed preparation,
power of attorney, traffic tickets, articles of
incorporation/association, and more.
Overhead expenditures. The average 2004 overhead
expense was reported as $87,191, with a median of $66,950 per attorney.
Average estimated gross receipts per attorney for the same time period
was $183,103. The full report includes a breakdown of overhead expense
and gross receipts by gender, firm, or office size and type of
A more in-depth article about the survey will be published in the
February Wisconsin Lawyer. To order the report, contact the
State Bar at (800) 728-7788, (608) 257-3838, or firstname.lastname@example.org. The member
price is $39.95; nonmembers pay $99.95. Those participating in the
survey have received a free copy of the report.
Court rules attorneys exempt from
On Dec. 6, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Circuit ruled that the privacy provisions of Title V of the
Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) do not apply to lawyers.
The court ruled that "...we cannot hold that Congress has ...
granted the (Federal Trade) Commission the authority to regulate
practicing attorneys as the Commission attempts ... The Commission's
interpretation is not a reasonable one."
The GLBA requires financial institutions to send out notices to
customers alerting them to the possibility of disclosure of their
personal financial information and providing methods for customers to
"opt out" of the institution's disclosure practices. The FTC sought to
apply this provision to attorneys engaged in such practice areas as tax
planning and transactions, estate planning, real estate closings and
In 2001, The New York Bar Association (NYSBA) and the ABA challenged
the Act's application to lawyers. The State Bar of Wisconsin joined with
Ohio in its amicus brief to the NYSBA's action against the FTC. For more
information, visit www.wisbar.org/news.