In the past few decades, four law firms—Weil, Gotshal & Manges; Kirkland & Ellis; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; and Latham & Watkins—have represented close to one-third of large public companies in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. For their services, the firms have traditionally charged higher rates than other large firms with less extensive bankruptcy practices. But their fee dominance may be beginning to wane.
Last year, the average rate for top-billing partners among the four historically dominant firms was $1,838. By comparison, top-billing partners among a group of seven Am Law 100 firms with smaller restructuring practices averaged $1,674. This year, not only are rate hikes up across the board—our total group of 11 firms raised rates an average of 12.3% in 2022 versus 5.3% in 2021—but Big Law’s other bankruptcy practitioners are catching up with the leaders, drawing even and in some cases surpassing the rates in the top four.