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Lawyers Get Kicked Back to Coach

It’s no secret at this point that law students graduate with some of the highest student debt levels in the nation, only to head into a job market that can’t support their growing numbers. Even for those who do find a job, things are getting worse. The Wall Street Journal reports that clients of major law firms are beginning to question why they should be billed for many of the expenses that used to be taken for granted as perks of the business:

Invoices for food, photocopies and legal research—items that once were rubber-stamped by companies—are drawing howls. As for charges for first-class flights? Clients are simply saying, “No more.”

Some routine costs, such as an attorney’s cab fare to the courthouse, are minuscule compared with the huge sums lawyers bill for work on complex mergers or lawsuits. But other items, such photocopying, often pile up and can amount to millions of dollars a year for some big companies. . . .

Often, in-house attorneys are asking law firms to justify the charges. “We’re a big corporation, we have pretty deep pockets,” says Jordan Kanfer, an in-house lawyer who until Friday was general counsel for the T-Systems North America unit of Deutsche Telekom AG. “You’re paying a partner $800 to $1,000 an hour and they’re charging you because they ordered sushi.”

Making as a lawyer in today’s economy is already a tough enough proposition, but no billable sushi and first-class flights? Now that’s what we call a hardship.

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