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A review of bankruptcy rates in Delaware and the Southern District of New York shows that a handful of U.S.-based partners at Am Law 200 firms have inched above the $1,000 rate barrier, making bankruptcy work as lucrative as it was plentiful in 2008 and 2009. Over a 12-month period ending August 2009, there were more than 13,000 billing rate entries submitted by law firms in the nation’s two busiest bankruptcy courts, according to a new database compiled by ALM Media.

Among U.S.-based lawyers at Am Law 200 firms, Shearman & Sterling tax partner Bernie Pistillo topped the rate chart with an hourly fee of $1,065 for his work on the bankruptcy of Stock Building Supply Holdings LLC, a building products supplier, in Delaware. (One solo practitioner in Pleasantville, N.Y., Alan Harris, surpassed Pistillo’s rate, charging $1,200 an hour for his work as special real estate litigation counsel on the bankruptcy of Digital Printing Systems in the Southern District of New York.) Eleven other U.S.-based Am Law 200 partners were in the $1,000-plus club, according to the database. Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft financial restructuring co-chair Deryck Palmer, a former Weil, Gotshal & Manges partner, billed Lyondell Chemical Co. at a rate of $1,050 for work on its 2009 bankruptcy. Greenberg Traurig bankruptcy co-chair Bruce Zirinsky, who left Cadwalader last January, billed $1,050 an hour as debtor’s counsel for TH Agriculture and Nutrition LLC, as did White & Case global restructuring head Thomas Lauria for WCI Communities Inc., and Robert Pincus, the head of the corporate practice in Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom‘s Wilmington office, for Hayes Lemmerz International Inc., an automotive wheel supplier.

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