Starting salaries for legal professionals in the United States are expected to increase 3.1 percent overall in 2016, according to the just-released Robert Half Legal 2016 Salary Guide. Law firm attorneys with four-plus years of professional experience should see greater-than-average salary gains. Among legal specialists, compliance directors are expected to see the largest gains in annual base compensation.
Robert Half Legal is a legal staffing and consulting solutions firm specializing in attorneys, paralegals and other highly skilled legal professionals. The company’s annual Salary Guide is based on extensive research, as well as local and national employment data gathered from Robert Half Legal offices throughout North America.
“Hiring in the legal field is gaining momentum as law firms and companies respond to rising demand for legal services,” said Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal. “Law firms are expanding practice groups to support growth in litigation, compliance and commercial law while legal departments are building teams to manage more legal matters in-house.”
Volkert noted that legal professionals with expertise in high-demand specialties are in short supply and are receiving multiple employment offers or counteroffers. “Employers who are reluctant to offer competitive compensation packages or expedite the hiring process risk losing highly sought-after legal professionals to other organizations,” he said.
According to Robert Half Legal, average starting salaries for lawyers at law firms are expected to increase 3.5 percent in 2016. Starting salaries for lawyers with 10-plus years’ experience at a midsize law firm (35 to 75 lawyers) are expected to increase 4.7 percent from 2015, to the average range of $162,750 to $268,500 annually. At a small-to-midsize law firm (10 to 35 lawyers), lawyers with four to nine years’ experience are projected to see starting salaries rise 4.7 percent, to the range of $102,750 to $175,750 per year. First-year associates at large law firms (more than 75 lawyers) are expected to earn between $116,000 and $143,500, a 2.7 percent increase over 2015 projections.
Corporate attorneys are expected to see average compensation gains of 3.1 percent over 2015 levels. Starting salaries for in-house counsel with four to nine years’ experience at large companies (more than $250 million in revenue) are projected to rise 3.7 percent, to the range of $160,500 to $217,750 annually.
Legal Support Positions
Overall, salary increases of 3.0 percent are expected for law firm paralegals in 2016. At small-to-midsize law firms, paralegals with seven-plus years’ experience should see average starting salaries rise by 4.0 percent, to the range of $61,750 to $73,500 annually.
Legal secretaries at law firms can expect average starting salaries to increase 2.3 percent in 2016. The greatest gains in starting salaries are expected for legal secretaries with three to six years’ experience at midsize law firms. These professionals should see salaries in the range of $47,500 to $59,500 per year, a 3.4 percent increase from 2015.
Legal Specialist Positions
On average, starting salaries for legal specialists are predicted to rise 4.3 percent. Compliance directors with 10-plus years’ experience should see the greatest gains, with starting salaries increasing by 5.8 percent, to the annual range of $118,250 to $138,500.
Other key findings from the Robert Half Legal 2016 Salary Guide include:
- Litigation support/eDiscovery directors with 10-plus years’ experience can expect their base compensation to increase 5.7 percent on average, to the range of $101,000 to $130,500 annually.
- Contract managers can expect average starting salaries to rise by 5.6 percent, to the range of $80,500 to $121,500 per year.
- Compensation for lease administrators is projected to increase 5.3 percent, to the annual range of $59,000 to $80,500.
- Law firm administrators/office managers at small-to-midsize law firms can expect average starting salaries of $64,750 to $92,500 annually, a 3.1 percent increase from 2015.
- Midlevel paralegals with four to six years’ experience at a large company should see average salary ranges of $60,000 to $77,500 per year, a 3.4 percent increase.
- Legal secretaries with three to six years’ experience at a midsize company ($25 million to $250 million in revenue) are expected to earn starting salaries of $48,000 to $61,500 annually, a 3.3 percent increase from 2015.
About the Robert Half Legal Salary Guide
The Robert Half Legal 2016 Salary Guide includes projected starting salary ranges for more than 100 positions in the legal field. This information is derived from the thousands of full-time and project placements handled nationwide by Robert Half Legal’s recruiting and staffing professionals. Continuing or ongoing salaries are not reported as a number of factors, such as service time and work ethic, make ongoing pay difficult to measure. Bonuses, incentives and other forms of compensation, including benefits and retirement packages, also are not taken into account.
Robert Half Legal’s annual Salary Guide is used extensively by law firms and corporate legal departments to determine appropriate compensation levels for employees. In addition, job seekers, academic institutions, legal associations and government agencies rely on the guide for current data on salaries and trends in the legal field. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics has included the guide’s data in its Occupational Outlook Handbook.
About Guest Author Robert Half Legal
Robert Half Legal is the premier provider of legal staffing and consulting solutions for law firms and corporate legal departments. With North American and global locations, Robert Half Legal provides a customized approach, including managed review, legal project management and eDiscovery services, to help organizations handle constantly changing workloads.