Courts have been busy this year clearing the backlog of cases that built up during the pandemic. That has meant a glut of trials and settlements — and with them a fresh batch of hourly rates for Missouri practitioners.
Missouri Lawyers Media’s 2022 Billing Rates section examined fee applications filed with local state and federal courts to give a glimpse, however limited, into the amounts that lawyers in this state charge per hour for their services.
Most often, these are cases that are subject to a fee-shifting statute, such as in employment and civil-rights cases. A number of hourly rates come from class-action settlements in which attorneys’ customary fees are used to calculate a “lodestar” reference point for the fees for the class counsel. Other examples include fees that are owed as part of a contract dispute, and in some instances in cases in which one side has been forced to pay the other side’s fees as a court-ordered sanction.
Bankruptcy filings are also a source of hourly rates, though not nearly as rich a vein as they once were. According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, personal and business bankruptcy filings have steadily declined in the last few years, falling 11.7 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, fell 15.3 percent and 12.7 percent, respectively. The 2021 Billing Rates survey — which covered a two-year period — featured 220 attorney and staff rates, 87 of which came from bankruptcy cases. This year’s listing features a comparable 216 total rates, but only 37 figures came from bankruptcy sources.
New this year, the Billing Rates survey examined filings not only in federal courts in Missouri but also those in Kansas City, Kansas, and in the Southern District of Illinois, both of which border Missouri’s metropolitan areas and frequently draw Missouri-licensed practitioners.
The median hourly rate for Missouri lawyers as a whole was $400, up from last year’s figure of $330 an hour. The statewide median was $450 per hour for partners and $325 for associates and other attorneys, such as counsel or lawyers whose titles weren’t apparent from firm websites or court filings.
In St. Louis, the median rate was $385 an hour, up from $330 in our last survey. The median partner charged $420 per hour, while the median nonpartner charged $350. The St. Louis figures were calculated from a pool of 89 lawyers.
In Kansas City, the median rate was $425 an hour, up from $347 in 2021. The median partner charged $488 an hour, and the median nonpartner rate was $325. The Kansas City rates were calculated from a pool of 73 attorneys.
This year’s survey pulled in just 13 rates from outside of the state’s two metropolitan areas, yielding a median of $295 per hour.
Law firm staff, such as legal administrative assistants, paralegals and law clerks, had a median rate of $150 per hour. The pool of 41 staff members was drawn from around the state, though most were concentrated in the metropolitan areas.
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 a 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.