Legal Salaries to see 6.1% 2006 Hike

October 27, 2005 ( - The latest data from staffing company Robert Half shows that average starting salaries for US legal professionals are expected to rise 6.1% in 2006.

A Robert Half news release said that this compares with starting salary increases of 3.4 % forecast this time last year.

Researchers said that law firms and corporate legal departments are optimistic about the long-term employment outlook for their field. Growth in practice areas such as real estate, compliance, intellectual property and litigation, in particular, is fueling demand for legal services.

“Legal hiring managers appear to be more confident about a sustainable economic recovery and, as a result, they are adding staff and planning for new business opportunities,” said Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal, in the news release. “Candidates with experience in high-demand practice areas are beginning to receive multiple job offers.”

According to the research, the average starting salaries for attorneys are expected to rise 5% in the coming year. The position that will see the biggest increase in base compensation is that of licensed attorney with four to nine-plus years of experience at a small to midsize law firm (10-35 attorneys).

The average annual salary will be from $72,000 to $128,000, an 8.5% hike over last year. First-year associates at those same firms will see starting salaries rise 7.9% to the range of $49,500 to $74,000. Their counterparts at large law firms (75+ attorneys) will earn between $91,250 to $123,500 per year, a 6.8% increase from 2005 projections.

Corporate attorneys will see average compensation gains of 8.5% over 2005 projections. Salaries for first-year associates will go up 9.9%, to the range of $55,750 to $83,500. Licensed lawyers with one to three years of experience will see increases in base compensation of 9.1% to between $67,000 and $103,250 annually.

Average starting salaries for legal administrators and office managers are expected to grow 5.6% in the coming year. At small to midsize law firms, base compensation will range from $49,000 to $76,000 for these positions, a 6.8% gain over 2005 levels.

Legal secretaries can expect average starting salaries to increase 6% in 2006. The position of midlevel legal secretary at a small to midsize law firm will see the biggest gain in compensation. The average annual salary is anticipated to rise 7.4 % to between $38,250 to $52,500 per year.