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The big firms are getting used to announcing gross revenues that have become, well, gross. They’re begrudgingly willing to talk about partner draws that are moving to the million-dollar neighborhood. What the big law firms are still downright shy about are the building blocks of all that filthy lucre: billing rates.

In a simple mathematical sense, it should be neither surprising, nor embarrassing, that record per-partner profits and first-year associate salaries would put pressure on rates to climb to a similar high-water mark. But Los Angeles insiders still don’t want to go on the record about Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher charging $350 to $500 for partners; and the same attitude prevails at Latham & Watkins, whose partners are now commanding between $300 and $450, with some elite lawyers getting closer to $500, according to an L.A. law firm manager and several other sources.

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