Lawyer Pay

How much do partners make? The average at larger firms tops $1M, survey finds

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Partners in the nation’s top 200 law firms earned an average of $1.054 million in 2019, an increase of 10% from 2018, according to a survey released Tuesday.

Average compensation for equity partners was $1.39 million compared to $432,000 for nonequity partners, according to the survey by legal search firm Major, Lindsey & Africa.

The survey, available here, used an online questionnaire hosted by legal market data company Acritas. A press release summarizes the findings.

Although female partners earned less than male partners and minority partners earned less than white partners, the pay gap is narrowing, the survey found.

Male partners earned $1.13 million on average in 2019, compared to $784,000 for female partners. But the growth rate in compensation was 15% for the female partners and only 7% for male partners.

Similarly, white partners made $1.046 million on average in 2019, while partners identifying as nonwhite earned an average of $869,000. But Black partners saw a big jump of 78% in compensation since the 2018 survey, followed by a 16% increase for Asian Pacific partners. Hispanic partners reported a decline, however, of 18%. The increase was 11% for white partners.

The survey defined compensation as base pay and bonuses. One-time contingency payments, signing bonuses and other unusual payments weren’t counted.

The survey was based on 1,271 responses from partners at Am Law 200 law firms, the nation’s top grossing law firms, from a time period between July 29 and Sept. 21. Seventy percent of the respondents said they expected the COVID-19 pandemic to affect their 2020 compensation.

More recent reports have indicated that the legal industry was faring better than expected, leading Major, Lindsay & Africa to conduct a “flash survey” about the pandemic impact in November. Nearly two-thirds of the 134 partners who answered the flash survey said they did not expect their 2020 compensation to be affected.

Among partners whose firms adopted austerity measures early in the pandemic, 41% said the measures had been trimmed, and 43% said they had been completely reversed.

Among the publications covering the survey are Law360, Thomson Reuters Legal and

“A funny thing happened as the year unfolded,” said Jeffrey Lowe, global practice leader of Major Lindsey & Africa’s law firm practice, in an interview with Law360. “The industry kept doing much better than anyone hoped for.”

“We’re not sure what 2020 will look like, but rather than it showing a steep decline, we think it’s very possible we will see level results,” he added.

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