Lawyer compensation in Philadelphia is down, study finds

By Chris Mondics, The Inquirer Daily News

Lawyers in America’s largest cities saw substantial pay increases for the period from 2013 to 2015 – except in Philadelphia, according to a new survey.

Salaries for law firm partners in Philadelphia in fact declined by 11 percent during that period to $667,000, according to the survey by the legal consulting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa and ALM Legal Intelligence, the research arm of ALM Media.

Partners at firms in Silicon Valley, by contrast, where the compensation was the highest in the nation, earned more than $1.4 million.

Overall, average compensation for lawyers at big city firms hit $877,000, up 14 percent from 2014.

“After seeing more modest increases in compensation following the Great Recession, the results from 2016 demonstrate that Big Law is resilient,” said Jeffrey Lowe, Major, Lindsey & Africa’s global practice leader. “I think firms have gotten better and better at controlling costs and I think that because the economy has rebounded so well firms are able to raise billing rates once again.”

More than 2,100 partners responded to the biennial survey covering compensation trends and other law firm issues. The survey results included 82 partners in Philadelphia.

Nationwide, equity partners, or lawyers with an ownership interest in their firms, earned an average of $1.1 million, three times as much as so-called compensation partners, those without an ownership interest. Among practice areas, corporate lawyers earned the most, averaging just over $1 million, while labor and employment attorneys, a practice area that typically commands lower rates, were paid the least, $597,000.

Meredith Frank, managing director of Major Lindsey & Africa’s partnership practice in Philadelphia, described the decline in average compensation for partners in Philadelphia as a return to historical norms. Partners in Philadelphia enjoyed an extraordinary bump in compensation from 2011 to 2013, she said, 46 percent in all, and this year’s results were more in line with longer-term averages, she said.

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