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Billing Rates 2021: Fee awards few and far between during pandemic

Scott Lauck//November 29, 2021

Billing Rates 2021: Fee awards few and far between during pandemic

Scott Lauck//November 29, 2021

This year’s edition of Billing Rates has been a long time coming.

The last time Missouri Lawyers Media did a deep dive into the hourly rates of Missouri attorneys was August 2019. A year later, with courts all but closed during the pandemic and cases at a standstill, the project just didn’t make sense to attempt.

The numbers show that things still aren’t quite back to normal. Even with two years’ worth of data in this year’s edition, we found rates for just 182 Missouri-based attorneys — 15 percent fewer than in 2019, which covered one year.

Our data primarily comes from fee applications filed with state and federal courts in Missouri, often from cases that operate under a fee-shifting statute, such as in employment and civil-rights cases. Many such cases have been unable to secure trial dates during the pandemic — and without a prevailing side to request its legal costs, those fees remain unshifted and undisclosed.

Bankruptcy filings also have been in short supply. According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, personal and business bankruptcy have steadily declined during the COVID-19 crisis, falling 29.1 percent nationwide for the 12-month period ending Sept. 30. The bankruptcy courts St. Louis and Kansas City, which provide much of the data for this project, were no exception.

The median hourly rate for Missouri lawyers as a whole was $330, down from the 2019 figure of $370 an hour. The statewide median was $475 per hour for partners, $250 for associates and $300 for other attorneys (which includes of-counsel, staff attorneys and lawyers whose titles weren’t apparent from firm websites or court filings.)

In Kansas City, the median rate was $347 an hour, down from $405 in 2019. The median partner charged $490 an hour, while the median associate rate was $300. The Kansas City rates were calculated from a pool of 80 attorneys.

In St. Louis, the median rate was $330 an hour, down from $343 in our last survey. The median partner charged $450 per hour, and the median associate charged $250. The St. Louis figures were calculated from a pool of 77 lawyers.

Outside of the state’s two metropolitan areas, the median was $300 per hour, up from $250 in 2019. With just 25 such rates, there wasn’t sufficient data to break down median rates for different types of attorneys.

Law firm staff, ranging from legal project managers to law clerks, had a median rate of $150 per hour. The pool of 45 staff members was drawn from around the state, though most were concentrated in the metropolitan areas.

Missouri attorneys often win fee awards alongside lawyers from other states, particularly in bankruptcy court. In-state rates remain quite modest compared with those in large cities on the East and West coasts or Chicago, where the median rates often exceed the maximum rates in Missouri. In 2019, the median big-market partner who won a fee in a Missouri court charged $950 an hour; in 2019, that figure stood at $1,185.


  • Where possible, we use the attorney’s standard or customary rates, rather than the rate the court applied or discounted rates offered to a particular client. Rates can vary according to the case or client, so one listed rate for an attorney might not apply in other cases.
  • The rates are a sampling only. Though drawn from recent court filings, some fee requests were for work performed in previous years, so rates might have changed in the meantime. Wherever possible, we have used the most recent available rates.
  • Attorneys are listed with the firm or organization where they worked at the time the fee request was made. They might have changed firms or been promoted since then, or the firm might have changed names or ceased to exist.
  • Information on titles, practice specialties and office locations is drawn primarily from fee applications, supplemented with information from firm websites. Practice listings typically describe the type of case for which the fee was incurred, which might not be the attorney’s main area of practice.
  • Attorneys and staff in offices near the metropolitan St. Louis area in Illinois and the metropolitan Kansas City area in Kansas were counted as in-state rates.

Reporter Scott Lauck and freelance researcher Jennie Goodman researched the listings.

Billing Rates 2021

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