Law firms increased their average annual firmwide billing rate by 2.5 percent over the last year, one of the lowest increases in recent memory, according to The National Law Journal‘s 2009 survey of billing rates.

The small 2009 boost compares to a 4.3 percent increase reported in 2008 and a 7.7 percent rate climb in 2007. “Law firms this year increased rates very modestly, compared to the standard rate increase of 6 to 8 percent,” said James Jones, a consultant with Hildebrandt International. “I would have expected to see that, in 2009, when the message [about the state of the economy] finally sunk in.”

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