Biglaw has its annual and closely watched profits per partnership or PPP extravaganza, while Above the Law devotes an entire category to biglaw associate salaries and cuts. But where can lawyers considering solo or small firm practice get a sense for what solo and small firm lawyers earn?
The solo/small firm salary question is tougher to answer. Because there are so many solos, simply gathering a sampling is a chore. Moreover, most data collection comes through state and local bars which are populated by solos with smaller local or regional practices. Thus, data samplings may exclude solos with national, more "biglaw" oriented practices who may earn more on average.
More importantly, because solos control their workload, one solo’s earnings may not be representative of another’s potential. During the years that I worked part time, limiting my billable time to sometimes as little as 40 hours a month, I earned a fraction of what I do now. My salary at that time was not indicative of my full time schedule (and indeed, now, I don’t consider myself at full capacity because I still turn down work to make time for family). Thus, my income would not reflect the potential of a solo willing to put in a 60 hour work week.
Still, there are some resources and surveys on earnings of solo and small firm lawyers that can be used to glean a very broad idea of the averages. Here’s what I found in my most recent trip around the Internet:
Irreverant Lawyer rounds up earnings surveys from Texas, Nevad, New York, Wisconsin and New Mexico. But not Arizona because that information is behind a pay wall.
Solo in Chicago, Financials Jan – May 2009 H/T to Chicago solo Peter Olson for giving us a look at what one solo earns.
If you have any other economic data, please send it my way, or post it in the comments below.