2015 Legal Jobs Salary Guide
Average starting salaries for legal professionals in the United States are projected to increase 3 percent overall in 2015, according to the just-released Robert Half Legal 2015 Salary Guide. Lawyers at small-to-midsize law firms should see greater-than-average salary gains. Among legal specialists, the largest gains in annual base compensation are expected for compliance directors and contract managers.
Robert Half Legal is a legal staffing firm specializing in lawyers, 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.
“As law firms expand service offerings to capitalize on emerging business opportunities and corporate legal departments handle more matters in-house to contain outside counsel costs, hiring in the legal field is accelerating,” said Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal. “As a result, competition among law firms and companies is increasing for legal professionals who specialize in high-growth specialties such as litigation, healthcare and commercial law.”
Volkert noted that while salaries have not reached prerecession levels, employers are willing to boost compensation and enhance benefits to attract and retain top legal talent. “In many markets, candidates with in-demand skills are receiving multiple employment offers and counteroffers,” said Volkert.
According to Robert Half Legal, average starting salaries for lawyers at law firms are expected to increase 3.4 percent in 2015. Lawyers with 10-plus years’ experience at a small-to-midsize law firm (10 to 35 lawyers) will see the greatest gains in compensation. Starting salaries for this position are expected to increase 4.9 percent from 2014, to the average range of $134,000 to $184,500 annually. At the same size firm, lawyers with four to nine years’ experience will see starting salaries rise 4.8 percent, to the range of $94,000 to $172,000 per year. First-year associates will earn between $62,500 and $88,250 at small-to-midsize firms, a 2.4 percent increase.
Corporate attorneys are expected to see average compensation gains of 3 percent over 2014 levels. Starting salaries for in-house counsel with 10-plus years’ experience at midsize companies ($25 million to $250 million in revenue) will rise 3.7 percent, to the range of $143,500 to $225,000 annually.
Legal Support Positions
Law firms are expected to see paralegal salary increases of 3.4 percent in 2015. At midsize firms (35 to 75 lawyers), paralegals with four to six years’ experience should see average starting salaries rise by 4.5 percent, to the range of $55,750 to $73,000 annually.
Legal secretaries at law firms can expect average starting salaries to increase 2.3 percent in 2015. Those with seven to 11 years’ experience at midsize law firms can expect the greatest gains in starting salaries in the range of $53,250 to $63,750 per year, a 3.1 percent increase from 2014.
Legal Specialist Positions
Starting salaries for legal specialists are predicted to rise 4.1 percent, on average. Compliance directors with 10-plus years’ experience should see starting salaries increase by 5.2 percent, to the annual range of $107,000 to $135,750.
Other Key Findings From the Legal 2015 Salary Guide include:
- Contract managers can expect average starting salaries to rise by 5.1 percent, to the range of $75,000 to $116,250 per year.
- Compensation for lease administrators is projected to increase 5 percent, to the annual range of $55,000 to $77,500.
- Litigation support managers with seven to nine years’ experience will see average base compensation increase 4.9 percent, to the range of $81,250 to $108,000 annually.
- Midlevel paralegals with four to six years’ experience at a large company (more than $250 million in revenue) should see average salary ranges of $58,250 to $74,750 per year, a 3.3 percent increase.
- Legal secretaries with three to six years’ experience at a large company are expected to earn $50,500 to $65,250 annually, a 3.1 percent increase from 2014 levels.
The Robert Half Legal 2015 Salary Guide includes projected starting salary ranges for more than 100 legal positions. 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 cited the Salary Guide when compiling the Occupational Outlook Handbook.