M&A set a record year in 2021, representing 7.4% of total legal billing and garnering a 6.1% increase in the median partner rate.
RALEIGH, N.C., June 29, 2022 — LexisNexis® CounselLink® a leading cloud-based enterprise legal management solution for corporate law departments, announced the release of its 2022 Enterprise Legal Management Trends Report. Now in its ninth year, the 2022 Trends Report provides insights into seven key metrics driving corporate legal decision-making on improving legal department performance and outcomes. The report leverages CounselLink data based on more than $49 billion in legal spend across 350,000 timekeepers, 8 million invoices and more than 1.2 million matters.
Among the top key findings, Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) related legal fees processed through CounselLink in 2021 represented 7.4% of total legal billing, a significant increase from 4.3% in 2020. The data also reflects that greater demand for M&A legal expertise resulted in material price increases. The median partner rate billed for M&A work in 2021 was $878, a 6.1% increase over the prior year median.
Despite pandemic-related and other pressures for legal departments to reduce outside counsel spending, hourly rate increases paid to US firms showed no signs of slowing. On average, 2021 partner hourly rates increased by 3.4% relative to 2020, which was comparable to the 3.5% growth in 2020 vs. 2019.
Other key findings include the following:
- “Largest 50” Firms Continue to Take Larger Share of High-Rate Work: The “Largest 50” firms (those with more than 750 lawyers) continue to account for the largest share of U.S. legal spend. In 2021, 46% of outside counsel spend was paid to “Largest 50” firms, which is consistent with results from recent years. The three categories commanding the highest partner rates were Mergers and Acquisitions; Finance, Loans, and Investments; and Regulatory and Compliance. Combined, the “Largest 50” firms had a 61% share of legal billings in these categories last year. They also grabbed a majority share of IP Litigation and Corporate Antitrust work, which command higher partner rates.
- AFA Utilization Remains Material: Corporate counsel continued to show strong interest in alternative fee arrangements (AFAs) in 2021, continuing a ten-year trend of growth. Last year, 14.8% of matters billed some portion of other than hourly billing, and 9.6% of all fees were non-hourly. The matter types that utilized AFAs the most were Intellectual Property, Labor & Employment and Insurance. AFAs were utilized the least in Environmental, Commercial and Contracts, and Litigation matters, however, Environmental, Real Estate and Intellectual Property had the greatest percentage of AFA billings in 2021.
- Law Firm Consolidation Rebounded: In 2021, nearly 60% of companies consolidated 80% or more of their legal work with 10 or fewer law firms. Industries with the highest level of consolidation in 2021 included: transportation and warehousing, information companies, retail and manufacturing.
“For the ninth year, CounselLink’s Enterprise Legal Management Trends Report has enabled corporate law departments to leverage authoritative industry data to make informed sourcing decisions and improve legal department performance and outcomes,” said Kris Satkunas, Director of Strategic Consulting for CounselLink and author of the Trends Report. “In the current inflationary environment, it is increasingly important for corporate counsel to keep an eye on rate trends and work closely with outside counsel to manage costs. As the quantity of available data continues to increase, so does the depth and quality of insights that CounselLink’s Trend Report is able to provide.”
The seven key metrics covered by the report include blended hourly rates, law firm consolidation, Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs), partner hourly rate differences, partner hourly rate growth by city/state, partner hourly rate growth, and international partner rates. The full CounselLink Trends report is available for download at https://counsellink.com/trends/.
LexisNexis® CounselLink® is a leading enterprise legal management solution designed to help corporate legal departments gain 100% visibility into their work, matters, and invoices. CounselLink delivers Work Management, Financial Management, and Vendor Management solutions in one easy-to-use, cloud-based platform for controlling costs, maximizing productivity, and making better decisions — all supported by powerful analytics that provides you with data to demonstrate your department’s value. For nearly 30 years, LexisNexis has been providing innovative solutions for corporate legal departments crafted from the insights of thought leaders, industry expertise, and customer feedback. Discover more about CounselLink online at www.counsellink.com.
About LexisNexis Legal & Professional
LexisNexis Legal & Professional® provides legal, regulatory, and business information and analytics that help customers increase their productivity, improve decision-making, achieve better outcomes, and advance the rule of law around the world. As a digital pioneer, the company was the first to bring legal and business information online with its Lexis® and Nexis® services. LexisNexis Legal & Professional, which serves customers in more than 150 countries with 10,500 employees worldwide, is part of RELX, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers.