Archive for the ‘Compensation’ Category

New legal industry surveys

August 8th, 2013 by Altman Weil

Here’s an update on a few noteworthy surveys that have been released this summer:

Law Firm Billing Rates

“For in-house counsel who want to do some comparison shopping on law firm billing rates, a new analysis from TyMetrix Legal Analytics and CEB shows… average hourly rate in 2012 for partners was $536.47, and for associates it was $370.25…. Partner rates went up 3.1 percent in 2012, compared to a 4 percent increase in 2011. Similarly, average associate rates increased 7.4 percent in 2012, versus 8.5 percent the year before.”

Read it at Corporate Counsel 

General Counsel Compensation:

“After across-the-board declines the previous year, compensation bounced back up in 2012 in every category of GC pay that [Corporate Counsel’s GC Compensation Survey] measures. Average total cash received rose 6.7 percent to $1,853,671, which is the highest figure we’ve seen … since 2000.”

Read it at Corporate Counsel

Law Firm Libraries:

The American Lawyer’s 12th annual Law Librarian Survey finds that, financial uptick not withstanding, the pressure to contain costs continues, clients are even more reluctant to pay for research than they were a year ago, and negotiations with vendors — never exactly a festive occasion — are still often contentious.  Overall, spending on outside vendors has held steady, with responding firms reporting an average 2013 library budget (including staff, print materials, electronic resources, etc.) of $6,194,015, compared to a 2012 average of $6,162,130. As in the past several surveys, increases in online spending were mitigated by cuts to print collections.”

Read it at The American Lawyer

New law school grads

June 20th, 2013 by Altman Weil

NALP has released their latest numbers on employment and starting salaries for new law school graduates.  The data represents the status of the Class of 2012 as of February 15, 2013 (about nine months after graduation).


  • Overall employment for 2012 grads is 85.5%, down for the 5th year in a row

  • 64.4% of graduates got a job requiring a JD, the lowest percentage NALP has ever recorded

  • Half of employed graduates found a job in private practice

  • Median law firm starting salary was $90,000, up from $85,000 last year

Read it at NALP

General Counsel Compensation

December 14th, 2012 by Altman Weil

The Association of Corporate Counsel is out with a new Law Department Comensation Survey.  They break the data into three segments for large, medium and small departments, according to a story in Corporate Counsel magazine today.

In large law departments:

  • GC base pay was $567,924 in 2012
  • Annual cash bonuses were an average $543,109  

GC comp in mid-sized departments:

  • $347,662 average salary
  • $210,900 average cash bonus

Read it at Corporate Counsel

New associate comp survey

September 20th, 2012 by Altman Weil

NALP’s new research on associate compensation is a timely complement to yesterday’s BigLaw partner compensation survey news.  They found that fewer new hires are collecting top dollar ($160K) salaries right out of law school.

“Recent research from NALP reveals that, although first-year associate salaries of $160,000 are still widespread at large law firms of more than 700 lawyers — especially in large markets — that figure no longer represents the prevailing salary, resulting in a median for this group of firms as a whole of $145,000, a median figure last seen in 2007. In the intervening years at least half the first-year salaries in firms of this size were reported at $160,000, with the proportion reaching a high of nearly two-thirds in 2009, confirming the characterization of 2009 as the recent high point for large firm salaries. “

But overall first year salaries are up somewhat…

“NALP’s 2012 Associate Salary Survey reports that the overall median first-year salary at firms of all sizes was $125,000, up from $115,000 in 2011. Medians ranged from $70,750 in firms of 2-25 lawyers to $125,000 in firms of 501-700 lawyers, and $145,000 in firms of 251-500 lawyers and in firms of more than 700 lawyers. The median at firms of 251-500 lawyers had been at $125,000 from 2009 to 2011, while that at firms of 501-700 lawyers edged up from $120,000, reflecting relatively more reporting of salaries of $125,000 in 2012 compared with 2011.”

The NALP survey included data from 570 law firms of all sizes.

Read it at NALP

New survey on partner comp in large law firms

September 19th, 2012 by Altman Weil

There’s a new survey out on partner compensation in large law firms.  Major, Lindsey & Africa and ALM Legal Intelligence, surveyed partners at Am Law 200, NLJ 350, and Global 100 firms in 2012 and received 2,228 responses.

“[Partners] saw their annual compensation rise, on average, 6.4 percent to $681,000 over the past two years. The jump was apparently driven, at least in part, by an uptick in the average rate those partners are billing, from $555 per hour in 2010 to $585 today.

The survey… shows that not all partners have benefited equally from the increase. On average, equity partners are better compensated than their non-equity counterparts, male partners make more than their female colleagues, corporate partners earn more than litigators, and partners in open compensation systems are paid better than those in closed compensation systems.

The disparity in pay among partner classes is one of the survey’s most compelling findings. Equity partners, who accounted for 62 percent of respondents, have seen their compensation increase a robust 11 percent, from $811,000 in 2010 to $896,000 this year. Conversely, the average compensation for nonequity partners stayed flat, going from $336,000 in 2010 to $335,000 this year.”

Read it at The AmLaw Daily

Starting salaries for new law school graduates

July 13th, 2012 by Altman Weil

It’s ugly out there for new law grads.  NALP, the National Association for Law Placement, has released a new study on starting salaries for the Class of 2011, as well as some trend data from the last three years.

According to their press release:

“The median starting salary for new law school graduates from the Class of 2011 fell 5% from that for 2010 and has fallen nearly 17% just since 2009… The research also reveals that the median starting private practice salary fell over 18% from 2010 and since 2009 has fallen an astonishing 35%. These are among the most dramatic findings that were released this week from NALP’s Employment Report and Salary Survey for the Class of 2011.”

“This drop in starting salaries, while expected, is surprising in its scope” according to NALP’s Executive Director James Leipold. “Nearly all of the drop can be attributed to the continued erosion of private practice opportunities at the largest law firms.”

Read it at NALP

Compensation for lawyers and staff

October 27th, 2011 by Altman Weil

Robert Half Legal is out with their new 2012 Salary Guide for lawyers and staff in law firms and legal departments in the US and Canada.  They publish base salary ranges for 70 legal positions and include multipliers for 145 North American markets. 

Download it at Robert Half Legal 

Associate salary update

September 9th, 2011 by Altman Weil

NALP (the National Association for Law Placement) has issued its annual report on associate salaries.  The NALP study provides a broad look at firms of all sizes around the US, and provides a good complement to the ALM Midlevel Associate Survey data we noted earlier this week.  Some of NALP’s findings include:

  • Associate salaries were largely flat in 2011 compared with 2010, with the $160,000 salary for first-year associates still prevailing at large firms in a number of markets, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, DC.
  • In other markets, such as Boston and San Francisco, the median remained at $145,000, after reaching $160,000 in 2009 and then falling back to $145,000 in 2010.
  • The overall median first-year salary was $115,000, unchanged from 2010.
  • Medians ranged from $73,000 in firms of 2-25 lawyers to $120,000 in firms of 501-700 lawyers, and $160,000 in firms of more than 700 lawyers.

Read it at NALP

Associate satisfaction survey

September 1st, 2011 by Altman Weil

The American Lawyer has released it latest Midlevel Associate Survey.  After surveying 5,000+ third-, fourth- and fifth-year associates, the survey found the lowest overall satisfaction score since 2004.  The reason for associates’ discontent is work load.

“Midlevel associates put their noses to the grindstone last year, and they didn’t like it one bit. While demand for legal services rose in the last year, staffing at the country’s biggest firms continued to lag behind prerecession levels. As a result, third-, fourth-, and fifth-year associates had their most demanding year since the recession began. They averaged 2,037 billable hours in 2010, compared to 1,957 the previous year. While the increase was only 80 hours (or two weeks of work to most associates), it represented the highest number of associate billable hours since 2007.”

Altman Weil’s Eric Seeger commented that law firms continue to be cautious about hiring. “That’s a normal business response in a questionable economy,” says Seeger. “Firms are not going to be in a hurry to staff up to prerecession levels.” In the meantime, the good news is that associate compensation is up. 

“The average base salary for midlevel associates this year was the highest in five years and represented a 4 percent increase, from $178,164 last year to $185,319 this year. The average year-end bonus was $19,746, up 5 percent from last year’s average of $18,774.”

Read it at The American Lawyer

General Counsel Compensation

July 21st, 2011 by Altman Weil

Corporate Counsel magazine has released its 2011  survey of the 100 highest paid GCs in the US.  The top earner was Altria Group GC, Denise Keane, with $6.5 million in total cash compensation.

The survey found:

“Stock options continue to fall out of favor (even though some lucky in-house lawyers are still getting those fat options), and cash remains king. Instead of getting bonuses just for being there, chief legal officers are getting extra cash, or, in the latest parlance, nonequity incentive compensation, which is tied to corporate performance goals. These payments, which rose by double digits, make up an increasing part of a chief legal officer’s pay packet. And restricted shares remain the most popular way to reward high performers with equity. In all, the word is diversity, rather than any one type of compensation.”


“Total cash payments surged 18 percent in 2010. Ninety-three of the 100 top-paid general counsel received nonequity incentive compensation, while the number getting discretionary bonuses dipped from 23 to just 20.

That doesn’t surprise compensation experts, who have seen traditional bonuses cave in recent years under the weight of a battered economy. “During challenging economic times, companies are much more likely to require that compensation be earned through performance rather than granted based on past work,” says James Wilber, a principal of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania-based Altman Weil, Inc. “When that happens,” he says, “the at-risk component of compensation increases, and base compensation stagnates or even decreases.”

Read it at Corporate Counsel