We’ve already had a lengthy discussion over the reasonableness of $30-$40/hour court appointed rates back here. Now, there’s an interesting development relating to court appointed rates out of Alabama as reported in Lawyers for Poor Threaten Walkout, David Holden, Huntsville Times (2/22/05). According to the article, the state currently pays attorneys for indigent criminal clients $40/hour for work out of court and $60/hour for in court work. But on February 1, 2005 an opinion by Attorney General Troy King said that payment or the lawyers’ overhead expenses is illegal. Lawyers will not receive overhead expenses on requests made after the opinion issued. Now, according the article, Alabama defense attorneys are deciding whether to strike (in which case, they will have David Giacalone to contend with!).
I’ve already said that fees of $40-$60 an hour aren’t inherently unreasonable – and that lawyers should try to develop a diverse portfolio of work to wean themselves from reliance on lower fees. But I especially don’t agree with the idea of a separate overhead charge, if only because few attorneys track overhead closely enough to allow it to be allocated. I see nothing wrong with repaying expenses incurred for investigation fees or even legal research like LEXIS – but it should be done on a cost basis and not as an added hourly charge.