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December 14, 2005

$1,000 An Hour--Benjamin Civiletti Is Likely Worth It, But Clients Can Decide for Themselves

There were news reports yesterday that former U.S. Attorney General and Baltimore Venable partner Benjamin Civiletti, 70, is now charging $1,000 an hour for litigation and Sarbanes-Oxley investigations. Before lawyers, pundits and late-night comics weigh in on this with jealousy, outrage and humor--and they will--let me say this: the guy has had an exemplary career, and has enjoyed a first-rate reputation. Venable's clients and the market can decide the issue. He may very well be worth it.

In another sense, it's good for there to be wide ranges in hourly rates. Experienced clients, the sophisticated users of legal services, realize that lawyering is not "fungible," i.e., there are lawyers, and then there are lawyers. There are many, many degrees of quality between "just average" and "unquestionably great." I think recognition or acknowledgment of those gradations is a good thing.

Practicing law is rewarding--but demanding and difficult. Few of us, in my opinion, really get it right and keep it that way. More power to Ben Civiletti.

Posted by JD Hull at December 14, 2005 06:34 PM


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