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Dispute Arises Over Cost of Temporary-Help Lawyers

Wall Street Journal (04/15/13) Jennifer Smith

A recent case is putting a spotlight on the practice of law firms using temporary legal help and then billing their clients for that help at a steep markup. Lawyers for a group of plaintiffs who sued Citigroup want to bill the plaintiffs approximately $550 an hour for the temporary workers that mostly did routine legal work, when the law firm likely paid them no more than $60 to $75 an hour.

Law firms increasingly use contract lawyers to wade through the reams of paper generated during the discovery process. Some firms hire the contract lawyers directly and pay them $25 to $40 an hour, or through staffing firms that bill $50 to $80 an hour. The use of contract lawyers saves law firms a lot of money, but the savings aren’t necessarily passed on to the client. This practice is considered legal, so long as certain conditions are met.