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IBA: Starting Salaries for Legal Professionals Projected to Rise 3.0 Percent in 2013

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Average starting salaries for legal professionals in the United States are projected to rise 3.0 percent overall in 2013, according to the just-released Robert Half Legal 2013 Salary Guide. The largest increases in base compensation are expected for associates, paralegals and legal secretaries at midsize and small-to-midsize law firms. Litigation support specialists also should see greater-than-average salary gains.

“As law firms focus on pursuing new revenue opportunities, the market is strengthening for mid- and senior-level associates with business development skills, extensive client contacts and experience in high-demand practice areas such as healthcare, commercial law and litigation,” said Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal. “While salaries have not yet returned to pre-recession levels, many hiring managers are offering above-average compensation and bonuses to attract the industry’s best candidates and retain their most valuable employees.”

Volkert added that many law firms and corporate legal departments are balancing the demands of managing rising workloads with the need to contain costs. “Increasingly, law firm partners and general counsel are bringing in legal professionals on a project basis to access expertise and extra support that may not be available internally,” said Volkert.

Lawyer Positions

According to Robert Half Legal research, average starting salaries for lawyers are expected to increase 3.2 percent in 2013. The position that will see the biggest rise in compensation is a licensed lawyer with four to nine years of experience at a small-to-midsize law firm (10-35 lawyers). Base compensation for this role is expected to rise 4.9 percent, to the range of $87,250 to $157,500 annually, on average. Lawyers with the same amount of experience at midsize law firms (35-75 lawyers) will see starting salaries rise 4.8 percent, to the range of $119,750 to $178,250 per year. First-year associates at small-to-midsize law firms will earn between $58,250 to $84,750, on average, a 2.1 percent increase from 2012 projections.

Corporate attorneys will see average compensation gains of 3.4 percent over 2012. Starting salaries for licensed in-house attorneys with 10 to 12 years of experience will rise 3.9 percent, to the range of $134,500 to $235,500 annually.

Legal Support Positions

Law firm paralegals are expected to see average starting salaries increase 3.3 percent in 2013. The position of midlevel paralegal with four to six years of experience at a midsize law firm should climb by 4.4 percent, to the range of $53,500 to $66,000 annually.

Legal secretaries at law firms can expect average starting salaries of 2.7 percent in 2013. Midlevel legal secretaries with seven to 11 years of experience at midsize law firms will see the highest starting salaries at the range of $49,250 to $61,750 per year, a 3.5 percent increase from 2012.

Starting salaries for legal professionals with litigation support expertise are predicted to rise 3.5 percent, on average. Litigation support managers with seven or more years of experience should see starting salaries increase by 4.4 percent, to the range of $78,500 to $111,250.•

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