The Freshfields ‘£1,000 an hour’ partner: row breaks out over how much top firm charges

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By Alex Aldridge on

Barrister MP reckons magic circle giant demands up to a grand for 60 minutes of its time


A row has broken out about how much venerable law firm Freshfields charges out its top partners for.

According to Conservative MP and 7 King’s Bench Walk barrister Stephen Phillips QC (pictured below), the magic circle giant billed a senior hotshot out at £1,000 an hour on the government’s recent £757 million sale of its 40% stake in Eurostar.


At a Whitehall Public Accounts Committee meeting this week, Phillips — who has faced criticism for the huge commercial barrister earnings he hauls in on top of his MP salary — expressed concern at Freshfields’ “Rolls Royce” level fees, before claiming:

I’ve no doubt that Freshfields did a super job at £1,000 an hour for a partner. But did you put it out to tender?

But the firm itself maintains this figure is incorrect. In response to Phillips’ comments, a Freshies spokesperson told The Times:

No partner charged £1,000 an hour on that deal. And where the work can be scoped appropriately, the firm offers a number of alternative fee arrangements, including fixed fees.

National Audit Office data shows that Freshfields earned £2.8 million from the Eurostar deal.

According to research by law firm costs expert Jim Diamond, the five magic circle firms charge out their partners for between £775-850 an hour, while the London offices of US firms will go slightly higher, to as much as £900.

Junior lawyers are much cheaper — but still not exactly cheap — with an hour of a magic circle newly qualified solicitor’s time costing £350 and a mid-level associate boasting an hourly charge-out rate of up to £575.