Associate Salaries, Money, Silicon Valley

Lawyers Poised For A Pay Bump In 2014

The days of wild spending on associate salaries seem like a distant memory washed away in the Great Recession. It was an exciting time to be a lawyer when every year (or even mid-year) a firm-wide email would explain that the pay scale was going up as part of the ongoing arms race among Biglaw firms to attract talent. That trickled down to Midlaw and the Boutiques and suddenly there were coke-fueled orgies all around.

While the country’s financial outlook doesn’t inspire much excitement, lawyers might be getting back in the high life again, with a pay bump expected next year. NY to 190?

So how much more are you about to make?

Before you get too excited, the projected pay bump is limited to the Silicon Valley market. That said, it was the Silicon Valley firm of Gunderson Dettmer that kicked off the first big salary arms race — the associate salary bump to the $125K scale — so it’s worth watching developments in this market very closely for signs of recovery. Like the economy, the pay bump may be modest compared to the 25 percent bump that Gunderson offered way back when the tech bubble was a thing, but it’s still something:

Though legal salaries are still lagging pre-recession levels, lawyers and legal support staffs can expect an average 2.7 percent pay bump next year, according to a new salary guide by Menlo Park staffing agency Robert Half Legal. Employees of mid-size law firms can expect the biggest increases, and legal professionals in Silicon Valley look likely to see larger gains than counterparts in most other U.S. metro areas.

That’s still a few grand in your pocket. And the 2.7 percent bump is just the average across all of the Silicon Valley market. The numbers look better when you start digging into the specifics:

Lawyers at small-to-midsize firms with 10-plus years of experience can expect the biggest percentage increase — 4.5 percent — with salaries jumping from $118,500-$172,250 during 2013 to $124,750-$179,000 in 2014. However, lawyers at large firms with the same amount of experience will still likely see higher pay overall, increasing 3.5 percent year-over-year to $174,500-$264,250.

Attorneys in the San Jose metro area can also expect to see salaries about one-third higher than those national averages.

More money means more work. Better load up on law-firm-branded energy drink!

The worst off in this whole equation are the first-year large law firm associates, projected to receive a mere 1.6 percent bump to $136,500, but they should just be happy to have jobs at all.

With Silicon Valley salaries on average lagging behind, it’s hard to believe New York-Washington Biglaw firms will bump salaries to keep ahead of the Valley. But law firms are pack animals, and if the East Coast bigwigs decide their dicks are being measured by showing confidence in the market, there could be good news on the horizon for everybody.

The whole salary guide is available here and contains a lot of interesting observations beyond just salary projections.

Silicon Valley legal salaries poised to outstrip most U.S. markets [Silicon Valley Business Journal]
2014 Salary Guide [Robert Half Legal]

Earlier: Caption Contest Winner: Biglaw In A Bottle

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