What Do Solo and Small Firm Lawyers Earn?

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.