In House Job Wanted: Must Pay More Than $15 an Hour

By William Vogeler, Esq. on July 25, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Stephen R. Williams is not a math whiz, but he can do simple division.

As in-house counsel for hospitals, Williams recently calculated that he averaged 18-hour days for a week. He was practically doing resident doctors' hours.

After wiping limited sleep from his eyes, he realized that over a $100,000-salary year it would be about $15 an hour. That's right, in-house attorneys sometimes make less than burger flippers.

No Billables

No disrespect to the hamburger helpers of the world. This is about pay, not relative value of services. If the world had to choose, hamburgers would probably win over lawyers.

After all, it's not like hospital attorneys have to perform brain surgery. But at least surgeons don't have opposing counsel in the operating room.

In other words, in-house lawyering is hard work. That's what Williams was saying in his column for Above the Law. He said the hospital is 24/7/365, which means in-house counsel must be available at all times in case of emergency.

"From the moment my feet hit the ground each morning, until my head hits the pillow in the evening, I am 'on' and in service of my client," he wrote.

Do the Math

Williams said he was crunching the numbers to prove a point.

"As in-house, we do enjoy the chance for a better work-life balance than our BigLaw colleagues, but as noted above, it is not without cost," he said.

He said law firm lawyers should to the math before jumping in house. There is "no jaw-dropping bonus" at the end of the year, he said.

Of course, there's always room for another burger flipper. And apparently you can make more than $120,000 a year at In-N-Out.

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