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If you thought that last year’s slumping economy would force law firms to cut their rates, you would have thought wrong. Results from The National Law Journal’s 2002 survey of the largest firms in the country show that rates went up at a majority of the respondents that provided billing information. Still, it’s hard to tell whether clients paid those increases in full, says Joseph Altonji, a management consultant in the Chicago office of Somerset, New Jersey — based Hildebrandt International. Because of discounting (not covered in the NLJ survey), clients may have been billed at lower-than-official rates. Altonji also notes that even companies facing fee increases from their outside counsel were unlikely to do anything about it. “Not many companies will change counsel over a five-dollar increase in rate,” he explains. “The cost of hiring new counsel is pretty high.” In its efforts to identify the country’s 250 largest firms, the NLJ (a sibling publication of Corporate Counsel) received completed survey forms from 496 firms. A total of 137 firms — both on the NLJ 250 and off — provided hourly billing information, and, of that number, 101 submitted the same data last year. Rate changes at those 101 firms are shown below.

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