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Putting a value on bench experience

Heather Cole//March 19, 2009//

Putting a value on bench experience

Heather Cole//March 19, 2009//

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How much is a retired judge’s time worth?

From $300 to $495 an hour, according to the rates of three former judges with varying lengths of time away from the bench.

Those rates are fluid and adjusted based on factors including the complexity of a case, the numbers of parties and amount of money involved, and the market where it’s being handled, according to former judges now in private practice.

“I don’t think judges are different than anyone else,” said Timothy O’Leary, of counsel with Polsinelli Shughart and a former Jackson County Circuit Court judge. “Good, competent lawyers with similar experience are along the same scale.”

O’Leary, who charged $475 for at least one case in 2008, joined what was then Shughart Thomson & Kilroy about 20 years ago after two decades on the bench.

He shares practice area specialties of arbitration and mediation but not an hourly rate with former St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Michael Calvin. Calvin is a private practice newbie, stepping down from the bench less than a year ago for an of counsel position at Spencer Fane Britt & Browne and charging $300, the low end of the judges’ scale. His rate was what the firm thought was reasonable, Calvin said.

“I pretty much relied on them,” Calvin said. “We discussed what some of the judges may be charging, what their billing practices were.”

Edward “Chip” Robertson, whose 2008 rate was $495, left the Missouri Supreme Court more than 10 years ago. He eventually settled in at plaintiffs’ firm Bartimus, Frickleton, Robertson & Gorny, where he’s a partner in the Jefferson City office with an appeals and complex litigation practice.

Robertson charges by the hour for less than 5 percent of his cases with others on a contingency fee or other billing basis. The rate he lists in fee applications is “really fluid,” and sometimes depends on where a case is being tried. A case in St. Louis might merit a higher rate than one in outstate Missouri, and it could be a lot more for a California, New York or Washington, D.C., case, Robertson said.

Robertson said he sometimes checks the rate of Bryan Cave of counsel Ann Covington, a former Missouri Supreme Court chief justice who has an appellate and litigation practice.

Covington, whose rate is not included in the billable-hour listing, said she couldn’t give an hourly rate. “There are so many variations,” Covington said.

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