Cost of an attorney to be an independent contractor
January 22, 2012 6:43 PM   Subscribe

Calling all attorneys and law firms: how much does contract legal work cost?

So, what is the going rate for an attorney working on contract these days? (By "on contract," I mean doing work for another lawyer or firm as an independent contractor, so you're not actually an employee.)

Yes, I know these things vary based on the area of law, geographic region, hiring firm, attorney's experience, etc. I just need to get a general sense of the cost.

posted by angab to Work & Money (7 answers total)
Best answer: Depends what you're doing, but I've seen amounts as low as $15/hour and as high as $35/hour paid to the attorney.

Keep in mind that $35/hour times 40 hours /week is probably a higher weekly paycheck than the junior associates are getting outside of biglaw firms, and that contract work is typically through a placement agency, which likely tacks on an additional 30-50%.
posted by gauche at 7:05 PM on January 22, 2012

Best answer: For entry level contract attorneys in Houston, the rate varies from $22 to $45/hr. The median I've seen is $26/hr.
posted by abdulf at 7:46 PM on January 22, 2012

Best answer: My wife's on a contract for $100/hr, plus extras (super, um, other stuff). This is a lot less than she charges for private work.

This is in Victoria.
posted by wilful at 8:25 PM on January 22, 2012

Best answer: I have a friend in DC getting paid I think around $60 plus overtime, but it's pretty specialized work.
posted by whoaali at 9:20 PM on January 22, 2012

Best answer: Anywhere from $30 to $100 or so.

"Contract attorneys" means a lot of different things. Document review? Between $35-$45 an hour. Real work, like preparing a case for trial? Much more.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:39 PM on January 22, 2012

Best answer: Generally a contractor should expect to receive on an hourly basis 1/1000 of the annual salary of an employee in the same position. This holds true for lawyers as with other professionals. However I would make it clear that this is for all time spent, not only for billable time (which should have a higher rate).
posted by jannw at 2:33 AM on January 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Data point:
I was paid $60 per billable hour by two different firms (both small boutique practices) in Austin back in 2004, when I had 4 years experience in litigation and a large-firm background. I was paid on my hours billed, not on the hours actually collected, and typically worked between 15-20 hours/week, depending on what needed doing.

Given how readily my fee was accepted (I needed the work, I was just starting my own solo practice and needed to supplement income), I'm assuming my rate was a bit under-market even then. However, I knew other contract attorneys who worked for less and/or whose pay was based upon collections [which I would never agree to]. I know that my services were billed out at 3 to 3.5 times my rate, which was expected. I was doing litigation support (not document review, but substantive drafting/research/some court appearances and depositions). Document review is always going to pay less than more substantive work, so adjust downward.

If you're interested in rates in a particular area, check out the local bar's newsletter - there are often ads seeking/by contract attorneys, and the rates will sometimes be listed.
posted by seventyfour at 1:18 PM on January 27, 2012

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