Legal Service Salaries Rise -- Modestly

By William Vogeler, Esq. on July 11, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Of course, salaries rose modestly for attorneys working in civil legal services organizations.

How else would they rise? Enormously? No, these attorneys work for peanuts. But a small increase is certainly better than nothing. And fortunately for the public servants, there's more to law practice than colorful clothes and a showy lifestyle.

Modest Pay Increase

A new survey says civil legal service attorneys earn more now than ten years ago, but still less than all other lawyers. By comparison, top law firms pay first-year attorneys about four times more than new legal service lawyers make.

The National Association for Law Placement said the median pay for new legal service lawyers was $48,000; first-year associates in small firms, $90,000. The bigger the law firm, the bigger the disparity.

At firms with 51-100 lawyers, new associates made $115,000. At the biggest firms, they got $190,000.

The same scenario played out for lawyers working for public interest organizations. Prosecutors and public defenders fared a little better, with prosecutors starting at $56,200 and public defenders at $58,300.

Other Benefits

Although their salaries increased modestly, public service lawyers often work for other benefits. In another survey, researchers found that attorneys who made the least money were the happiest.

Published in the George Washington Law Review, the results showed that money and prestige don't always pay off. Casey Sullivan, writing for FindLaw, said that it was not surprising that public-interest lawyers were happier.

"After all, many enter the field because they want to pursue such work, whether it's defending the indigent, or advocating for civil rights," he wrote. "That sort of mission-based work is likely to leave do-good lawyers feeling satisfied, if not rich."

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