How do Lawyers Bill at Over $1,000 per Hour?

Do you think the attorneys making the big bucks are able to command top rates because they can handle any legal matter?  Is it reasonable to think major companies can justify paying top dollars to a generalist who handles everything?  The Wall Street Journal ran an article this week about the $1,000 plus club and here is what I thought was the most important sentence.  General Electric is willing to pay what it must when it needs a lawyer with “unique” expertise.

The article features five different lawyers and all where famous for something:

  • Kirk Radke advises clients on leveraged buyouts and forming private-equity funds
  • John Reiss advises clients in mergers and acquisitions
  • Brad Scheler advises clients in bankruptcy
  • John Huber advises clients on capital markets
  • Michelle Gon advises clients on trade and investments in China

If specialists command better rates than generalist, why do so many client service professionals try to position themselves as generalists?  I have found through the hundreds of clients I have worked with, either in one-on-one meetings or when facilitating networking groups, that the primary reason is fear of missing an opportunity.  They position themselves as generalists so they do not miss anything. 

The problem is that by being a generalist, they will  never be viewed as someone who has a “unique” expertise and that will prevent them from charging the higher fees.  More importantly,  a general message usually prevents the most client service professionals from breaking through the clutter of claims and attracting enough attention to generate any interest.  They end up missing everything.

It might be counterintuitive, but the specialist with a focused message usually “catch” more clients than the generalist with the wide “net.”

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One Comment on “How do Lawyers Bill at Over $1,000 per Hour?”

  1. Joe Hardy Says:

    I agree! As a solo attorney, it’s especially scary NOT to position myself as able to help in many areas. But thanks to Mike’s encouragement, I am becoming more successful and having more fun by focusing on what I am “famous for”- aviation transactions!


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