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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 78, No. 12, December 2005

    Legal news & trendsLegal 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 size.

    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 expense.

    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 org service wisbar wisbar service 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 Gramm-Leach-Bliley

    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 personal bankruptcy.

    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.




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