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June 13, 2008 4:52 PM

Former Senator Slade Gorton: He's a Bargain!

Posted by Jonathan Thrope

If Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis partner Slade Gorton were a basketball player, he'd probably be demanding a trade right now.

According to an article in yesterday's Seattle Times, the former three-term U.S. Senator from Washington is receiving $685 an hour for his representation of the city in its lawsuit to keep the SuperSonics in the Puget Sound area. Last year, The American Lawyer reported that Seattle was counting on Gorton as its big gun in blocking the team's relocation to Oklahoma City. But is he getting a superstar's salary?

Every year, the Fulton County Daily Report (a sibling publication of The Am Law Daily) examines bankruptcy filings in federal courts in search of the highest rates for which lawyers have sought court approval. In 2007, Cadwalader's Bruce Zirinsky was the only bankruptcy lawyer raking in quadruple digits, billing $1000 an hour in the Northwest Airlines bankruptcy. But five other lawyers were charging more than $900--and a whopping 95 lawyers billed between $800 and $900. At least the former Senator is out-pacing the average Atlanta bankruptcy rate of $425 an hour.

Venable partner and former U.S. Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti is one of several big firm partners who, according to The Wall Street Journal, charges at least $1000 an hour. The Journal also cited Stephen Susman, now of Susman Godfrey, as well as Simpson Thacher & Bartlett chairman Richard Beattie, but noted that David Boies of Boies, Schiller bills a relatively reasonable $880 an hour.

The Seattle Times article did say that K&L Gates is taking a 10 percent pay cut since it's representing the city. Even so, for a former Senator, $685 seems, well, puny.

"Seattle is not New York," says Ward Bower, principal at consulting firm Altman Weil, who was not all surprised by Gorton's rate. Much like Pittsburgh, Bower says, Seattle is historically a "low cost, low rate" city. Gorton's $685, he adds, is "probably one of the highest rates in Seattle."

We couldn't pin down the billing rate of former Senator George Mitchell at DLA Piper. But according to an agent at All American Talent & Celebrity Network, he charges upwards of $50,000 for a roughly 45 minute speaking engagement. Maybe if Gorton loses the Sonics case he can switch to the speaking circuit.

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