The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that lawyers earned an average annual salary of $130,490, or $62.74 per hour, for 2011. But this figure doesn’t account for experience or firm size, which directly affect salaries. As experience increases, so do salaries. The same can also be said for the size of the law firm.
Salaries at Large Firms
At large firms, a senior lawyer with over 10 years of experience can expect to earn $164,000 to $246,250 at a large firm, according to Robert Half Legal, global provider of legal professionals. Lawyers with four to nine years of experience earn an average of $144,250 to $193,000 per year. Those with one to three years of experience earn $108,500 to $148,000, while first-year associates earn $107,750 to $132,000 per year, on average.
Salaries at Midsize Firms
Lawyers at midsize firms, which employ 35 to 75 lawyers, don’t earn as much as those at larger firms. A senior lawyer, for example, makes an average of $136,750 to $226,000. Those with four to nine years of experience earn $115,750 to $168,500, while attorneys with one to three years of experience earn $79,500 to $117,000. First-year associates, on the other hand, make $73,750 to $103,250.
Salaries at Small-to-Midsize Firms
Small-to-midsize firms, which have 10 to 35 lawyers, pay a bit less than midsize and large firms. A senior lawyer makes an average of $113,500 to $166,250, while an attorney with four to nine years of experience earns $83,750 to $149,500. An attorney with one to three years of experience earns $63,500 to $98,250 and a first-year associate can make $56,750 to $83,250.
Salaries at Small Firms
Firms with 10 or fewer lawyers are often considered small firms, and typically pay much less than any of the other law firms. Senior lawyers tend to make $91,500 to $151,500. Lawyers with four to nine years of experience make $65,250 to $123,750, and those with one to three years of experience earn $53,750 to $86,000. A first-year associate earns an average of $50,250 to $73,750.
From 2010 to 2020, lawyers are expected to experience a 10 percent growth in employment, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared with the average anticipated growth of 14 percent for all occupations. While the need for lawyers will always exist, lower-paid professionals, such as accountants and paralegals, now do many of their duties — at least when it comes to working for businesses.
Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.