The Average Small Law Firm Salary

Jan 16, 2021

Author:
Patrick Carver
Founder, Constellation Marketing

We get it. You’ve seen recent statistics about the country’s average small law firm salary, and you’re wondering how accurate the data is. Maybe you need to know so that you can set appropriate salary levels at your firm, or maybe you’re exploring a job change and want to know what to expect for yourself.

Like you may have already guessed, the reality is that there is no definite figure that serves as a one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

However, if you prefer to get the quick and dirty answer, we’ll tell you that a report conducted in 2019 showed that the average income for small law firm lawyers in the US was $192,000.

Bear in mind that this is the estimated average. In fact, before you begin to type this query in your Google search bar, we recommend that you ask yourself crucial questions like:

  • What area of legal practice do I want data for?
  • Which state/region is the small law firm located?
  • Are legal services rendered to consumers or other businesses?

Several other factors come into play here, and we’ll be discussing all of them later in this post. Perhaps the most shocking determinant of the mean income for small law firms is gender!

We’ll focus on attorneys in this post as there are varying figures for other legal professionals like legal secretaries and legal specialists, to name a few.

 

Studies Show This is Really What Determines The Average Small Law Firm Salary

Several data have been provided regarding attorneys’ annual earnings based on research conducted on a select number of solo practices or small law firms. Interestingly, we were able to select one reliable source as our reference for this post.

According to this 2019 report by Martindale-Avvo, they garnered information from a total of 7,800 solo practice and small law firm attorneys through an online survey conducted during Q1 2019. However, the report highlights data from 6,891 full-time attorneys among them who responded.

 

Average Small Law Firm Earnings

The annual mean small law firm earnings for attorneys in 2018 was $194,000, while the median salary was $135,000. These figures cover all billable legal payments for employed attorneys in small law firms and solo practices. External incomes from services like filling in as an expert witness are excluded.

 

Practice Areas

Depending on specific areas of practice, annual salaries for small law firms can range from as low as $134,000 for immigration attorneys to as high as $267,000 for medical malpractice lawyers.

 

B2B vs. B2C

This report also revealed that small law firms who work for other businesses had a higher average annual income ($249,000) compared to $179,000 for firms who represented consumers directly.

 

Location

There was a significant difference in the salaries of small law firm attorneys based on regional locations in the US. Those in the Western region (CA, HI, AK) had the highest average income of $222,000, while those in the Northwest (WA, OR, ID, MT, WY) earned the lowest average salary of $170,000.

 

Gender

The age-old issue of gender bias in annual income occurs within almost every industry, including law. In 2018, male attorneys had an average salary of $218,000, with their female counterparts reported to have earned 36% less.

One possible explanation for this imbalance is that the majority of the female attorneys represented consumers as opposed to their male colleagues, who preferred to work with businesses instead.

 

Small Law Firms vs. Solo Practices

Compared to solo practitioners whose mean annual income was $159,000, employees of small law firms had a much higher average income of $213,000.

 

How to Improve Your Salary

Here are a few strategies you can implement to increase the annual salary for your small law firm:

    1. Generate More Revenue

While this seems like an obvious option, you may be surprised at how difficult it is to accrue more income for your firm. A couple of ways to do this are to get more clients by targeting new practice areas and monitoring your billing more carefully to ensure outstanding bills are paid, among several other options.

    2. Raise Prices

Get over the internal struggle with yourself on whether or not to raise your prices! The best approach to this according to one group of law firm advisors is to set up proven marketing systems that will help you determine what aspects of your legal services prospective clients genuinely value.

    3. Lower expenses

Lastly, the best way to improve your salary is to reduce your overhead. This doesn’t necessarily imply that you need to send off employees. It would be best if you made sure each employee’s efficiency is significantly increased. A great way to do this, for instance, is through business automation.

While it’s easy to conclude that financial management is an integral component of small law firms, there are many other aspects to consider if you want to know how to run your firm successfully. Check out our essential guide for professional attorneys on managing their law firms here.