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Denise Howell is a seasoned appellate and intellectual property litigator based in Los Angeles. Denise writes one of the first and most popular law-related blogs, Bag and Baggage, coined the term "blawg" and helped pioneer podcasting for lawyers. Microcontent obsessed since 2001, she is frequently quoted in the media on legal issues involving intellectual property and technology law. "Sound Policy" is Denise's show at IT Conversations, and it's also what she hopes results from the briefs she submits to court. Email Denise at dhowell@gmail.com.

Dennis Kennedy is a computer lawyer and legal technology expert based in St. Louis, Missouri. An award-winning author, a frequent speaker and a widely-read blogger, he has more than 300 publications on legal, technology and Internet topics, many of which are collected in his e-books. Dennis has been described as someone who knows almost every rock song in existence and, more importantly, how they apply to technology and law. Email Dennis at his gmail address.

Tom Mighell is Senior Counsel and Litigation Technology Support Coordinator at Cowles & Thompson in Dallas. He has published the Internet Legal Research Weekly newsletter since 2000 and blogged about the Internet and legal technology at Inter Alia since August of 2002. With Tom's singing, Ernie on guitar and Dennis' encylopedic knowledge of rock music, we may have the beginnings of a good band, if this whole blog thing doesn't work out. Email Tom at tmighell@swbell.net.

Marty Schwimmer left a partnership in the largest trademark practice in the world and founded Schwimmer Mitchell, a full-service IP micro-boutique in Westchester County, New York, where he represents owners of famous and not yet famous trademarks. He founded The Trademark Blog, the first IP law blog and the one with the most pictures. He is the first to come in and the last to leave in his firm. Email Marty at marty@schwimmerlegal.com.

Ernest Svenson practices law with a mid-sized law firm in New Orleans, specializing in business-related lawsuits. Most of his practice takes place in federal court, especially the Eastern District. He is best known for his weblog Ernie the Attorney, which he started as an experiment. Like many experiments it got out of control. Nevertheless, he continues to practice law and, occasionally, to seek enlightenment. Email Ernest at esvenson@gmail.com.
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May 26, 2005

Mary Richards v. DuPont on Hourly Rates For Equity and Non-Equity Partners

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Posted by Marty Schwimmer

Odd issue. Law.com article: article 'DuPont Demands Truth in Billing'

DuPont is demanding not so much truth but more detail - it wants to know whether partners working on its matters are equity partners or non-equity partners. The attorney explains:

"If the requested rate for an equity partner is $400 and the rate for a nonequity partner is also $400, I can ask whether it should be the same, given that one shares in the profits of the firm and the other is salaried."

I'm prepared to entertain the notion that a client has a right to know who is equity and who is not, if I heard a valid argument why but I don't think this is (if I'm missing something, we have comments enabled below).

The client clearly can question the hourly rate but imho it should be tied to the value of the lawyer, not to the cost of goods sold.

Is DuPont suggesting that it should know because non-equity status is an implicit indicator of quality? Sometimes it is, but I think that it is more often an indicator of economic power within a firm and less directly of legal ability.

Would DuPont argue that it is entitled to know the differing take-home profit points between the equity partners? The salary levels of the of-counsels and the associates?

I'm reminded of the episode in The Mary Tyler Moore show where Mary confronts Mr. Grant for paying men more. Mr. Grant replies that he pays men more because they have families to support. She replies that if he rigorously applied that rule, he would pay men with three children more than men with no children.

It ought to be the level of service offered, not the provider's cost structure that should dictate.

And let's refer to the elephant in the room. A client can hire away a non-equity partner more easily.


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COMMENTS

1. Paul Scott on May 26, 2005 1:57 PM writes...

It sounds like DuPont assumes that their outside legal firms set billing rates like other consultants based on a multiplier of the cost of a particular level of employee. I don't know if DuPont assumes that an equity partner should cost more or less than a non-equity partner, but I believe that may be their reasoning. I agree with you. The client should expect to pay more for a more senior lawyer regardless of their status as an equity or non-equity partner and that status isn't really relevant to billing rates.

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