Lawyer Pay

How much do new public interest lawyers earn? Despite raises, pay is well below that of law firms, NALP says

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Median salaries are growing for lawyers working in civil legal services and public interest organizations, but there are still “sobering distinctions” when compared to law firm pay, according to the National Association for Law Placement.

Since 2018, median starting pay for lawyers in civil legal services has increased by $9,500, while median pay for new attorneys doing legal work for public interest organizations increased by $12,700, according to a June 22 press release from the NALP.

Salary growth was lower for public defenders, whose median starting pay increased only by $1,400 since 2018.

Median pay is:

    • $57,500 for new legal services lawyers, increasing to $78,500 for those with 11 to 15 years of experience.
    • $59,700 for new public defenders, increasing to $100,500 for those with 11 to 15 years of experience.
    • $63,200 for new lawyers in public service organizations, increasing to $95,000 for those with 11 to 15 years of experience.

The NALP didn’t publish figures on lawyers in local prosecution offices because it did not receive enough responses.

Public interest pay is well below that of lawyers working in law firms. According to 2021 figures collected before pay hikes, median starting pay was $85,000 for lawyers working in law firms of 50 or fewer attorneys, $127,500 for lawyers working in firms of 51 to 100 attorneys, and $190,000 for lawyers working in the largest firms of more than 700 attorneys.

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