Losing lawyers bill at $1,234 an hour

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, but most workers make more than that, especially in the legal profession.

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, paralegals, law clerks, and court reporters average $20-25 an hour, while lawyers and judges make $50-60 an hour, on average. Of course, lawyers often bill for considerably more than that, and as partners, share in the profits of their firm.

The 2009 Billing Rates and Practices Survey conducted by Incisive Legal Intelligence pegged the national average billing rate for lawyers at $284 per hour.

No one would expect a lawyer to work for minimum wage -– unless he couldn't find a job in his chosen profession and had to settle for an entry-level food-service or retail position. On the other hand, you wouldn't expect even a well-paid lawyer to make $1,234 per hour, either.

That's $1,226.75 per hour more than the federal minimum wage. Nearly a thousand dollars more than the national average billing rate for lawyers. You'd have to be one heck of a good attorney for a client to be willing to pay that much more than the average.

Why, you'd have to be someone like Robert Wilson of Finkelstein Thompson in Washington D.C.

Never heard of him? Neither had we, until he submitted his bill to U.S. District Judge John Gibney in Richmond, asking the magistrate to award him and four colleagues exactly that much per hour for their efforts in a shareholder suit against the directors of Massey Energy.

Wilson, et al. are requesting a $900,000 fee for the 729 hours they claim to have logged in their effort to prevent the merger of Massey and Alpha Natural Resources.

The best part is, the merger went through as planned with the approval of the shareholders. In other words, Wilson and his cohorts are asking for wages of $1,234 per hour for an unsuccessful effort.

Imagine how much they would expect to be paid if they had stopped the merger.

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