February 1, 2005 Managing Editor Regular News Hourly rates continue to climb Hourly rates continue to climb Mark D. Killian Managing Editor Seventy-eight percent of Florida lawyers who bill by the hour say their rate is $150 an hour or higher and the percentage of Florida lawyers who report they charge in excess of $200 has been steadily increasing, according to The Florida Bar’s 2004 Economics and Law Office Management Survey.The survey — which is taken every other year to keep lawyers informed on what their colleagues are doing in various areas of law office management — found that 50 percent of respondents to the 2004 survey now charge $200 or more per hour, compared with 42 percent who said they charged $200 or more in 2002; 27 percent in 2000; and 22 percent in 1998.The breakdown for the 2004 hourly rate information includes:• Less than $100 – 6 percent.• $100 to $124 – 7 percent.• $125 to $149 – 9 percent.• $150 to $174 – 11 percent.• $175 to $199 – 17 percent• $200 to $224 – 14 percent.• $225 to $249 – 9 percent.• $250 to $274 – 12 percent.• $275 to $299 – 2 percent.• $300 or more – 13 percent.This year’s survey was completed by 459 lawyers from a sample of 2,751. The 17 percent response rate — much lower than past surveys and attributed to the four hurricanes that arrived during the time the survey was distributed — gives a 5 percent margin of error, according to Mike Garcia, director of the Bar’s Research, Planning, and Evaluation Department.Of those Florida lawyers who indicate they bill by the hour, almost half (45 percent) report having more than 1,600 billable hours in 2003. Thirty-five percent report billing more than 1,800 hours in 2003.The southeast region of Florida contains the highest percentage (58 percent) of lawyers who charge an hourly rate of $200 or more. Lawyers in the northern part of the state have the highest percentage (65 percent) of attorneys who charge an hourly rate of $200 or less, according to the survey.Seventy-two percent of all managing partners and partner/shareholders surveyed report an average hourly rate of $200 or more. Fifty-seven percent of associates report an hourly rate of less than $200, while 46 percent of sole practitioners report an hourly rate of $174 or less.Forty-two percent of those surveyed said the hourly rate billed for legal work performed by their legal assistants or paralegals is more than $80, and 71 percent report the hourly rate is over $60 per hour.Nearly half of all respondents (49 percent) said the paralegals/legal assistants in their firms averaged less than 750 billable hours in 2003, and 30 percent said the paralegals/legal assistants averaged more than 1,250 billable hours in 2003.