Starting salaries for legal professionals in the United States are expected to increase 3.6 percent overall in 2017, according to the just-released 2017 Robert Half Legal Salary Guide. Lawyers with four to nine years of professional experience at small-to-midsize law firms and first-year associates at large law firms should see greater-than-average salary gains. Among legal specialists, litigation support/eDiscovery directors are expected to see the most significant 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.
“Law firms are expanding lucrative practice groups to capitalize on emerging business opportunities while companies are augmenting internal teams to meet rising demand for legal services,” said Charles Volkert, senior district president of Robert Half Legal. “Legal professionals with experience in high-demand practice areas and sectors, such as corporate transactional law, real estate and intellectual property, are in short supply and they are receiving multiple job offers.”
Volkert noted that work-life balance and a defined career path are more important than ever to job seekers. “To recruit and retain top talent, law firms and legal departments are offering competitive salaries and enhanced benefits packages that include telecommuting options, flexible hours and training opportunities,” he said.
According to Robert Half Legal, average starting salaries for lawyers at law firms are expected to increase 4.6 percent in 2017. Starting salaries for lawyers with four to nine years’ experience at a small-to-midsize law firm (10 to 35 lawyers) are expected to increase 6.9 percent from 2016, to the average range of $114,750 to $183,000 annually. First-year associates at large law firms (more than 75 lawyers) are expected to earn between $123,750 and $151,750, a 6.2 percent increase over 2016 projections.
Corporate attorneys are expected to see average compensation gains of 3.8 percent over 2016 levels. Starting salaries for in-house counsel with four to nine years’ experience at midsize companies ($25 million to $250 million in revenue) are projected to rise 5.0 percent, to the range of $139,750 to $206,250 annually.
Legal Support Positions
Overall, salary increases of 3.5 percent are expected for law firm paralegals in 2017. At small-to-midsize law firms, paralegals with four to six years’ experience should see average starting salaries rise by 5.2 percent, to the range of $55,750 to $70,000 annually.
Legal secretaries at law firms can expect average starting salaries to increase 2.3 percent next year. The greatest gains in starting salaries are expected for legal secretaries with three to six years’ experience at small-to-midsize law firms. These professionals should see salaries in the range of $45,750 to $57,500 per year, a 3.8 percent increase from 2016.
Legal Specialist Positions
On average, starting salaries for legal specialists are predicted to rise 5.1 percent. Litigation support/eDiscovery directors with 10-plus years’ experience should see the greatest gains, with starting salaries increasing by 8.9 percent, to the annual range of $110,500 to $141,500.
Other key findings from the 2017 Robert Half Legal Salary Guide include:
- Compliance managers with seven to nine years’ experience can expect base compensation to increase 6.9 percent on average, to the range of $98,500 to $127,250 annually.
- Contract managers can expect average starting salaries to rise by 5.4 percent, to the range of $83,250 to $129,750 per year.
- Compensation for lease managers is projected to increase 5.1 percent, to the annual range of $68,750 to $86,500.
- Law firm administrators/office managers at midsize law firms (35 to 75 lawyers) can expect average starting salaries of $78,000 to $116,500 annually, a 3.7 percent increase from 2016.
- Senior/supervising paralegals with seven-plus years’ experience at midsize companies are expected to earn starting salaries of $68,000 to $93,750 annually, a 4.0 percent increase from 2016 projections.
- Legal secretaries with three to six years’ experience at midsize companies can anticipate starting salaries of $50,750 to $62,750 annually, a 3.7 percent increase from last year.
About the 2017 Robert Half Legal Salary Guide
The 2017 Salary Guide is available for download at roberthalf.com/legal/lawyer-
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.
About 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.