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Public sector attorneys still earn significantly less than private sector lawyers

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Most public sector lawyer salaries have kept pace with inflation but remain significantly lower than salaries at private law firms, according to the “2012 Public Sector and Public Interest Attorney Salary Report” by the National Association for Law Placement.

The report indicated that most public interest starting salaries have risen between 23 percent (for public interest organizations) and 29 percent (for public defenders) while the consumer price index has increased about 22 percent during the same eight-year period.

According to the research, the median entry-level salary for a legal services attorney is just under $43,000, and an attorney with 11 to 15 years of experience can expect to make about $65,000.

Beginning public defenders earn a median salary around $50,500, while public defenders with 11 to 15 years of experience will be paid a median salary of $78,600.  

Entry-level prosecutors post a median salary of $50,000, and that progresses to almost $77,000 for those with 11 to 15 years of experience.

Salaries for attorneys in public interest organizations with issue-driven missions, such as women’s or civil rights issues, start around $54,000 and rise to about $75,000 with 11 to 15 years of experience.

These wages compare to a median first-year salary of about $80,000 at a law firm of 50 or fewer attorneys, almost double the salary of an entry-level attorney at a legal services organization. Moreover, starting salaries at many large firms in major metropolitan areas are near $160,000, beyond what even the most experienced attorneys can expect at a public interest organization.

James Leipold, executive director at NALP, stated that while salaries for public attorneys have risen with inflation, they have not risen enough to entice lawyers to practice in the public sector.

He noted that over the past eight years, “the cost of legal education and the average amount of law student debt have both risen at a much higher pace, which means that despite favorable changes in the federal loan repayment options available to law school graduates working in the public interest, there are still significant economic disincentives at play as law students consider whether or not to pursue public interest legal careers.”


 

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  • Public VS Private Attorney
    An important point that was not made in the article is expenses in the private sector. The list is considerable. (1)A building to work out of either by purchasing or lease plus maintenance. (2)Office furniture, file cabinets. (3) Staff salaries, secretary/receptionist or both and taxes paid by the employer. (4)Phone, internet, copier/printer + toner, computers, software, paper, utilities (lights, heat, water, sewer), trash pickup. office cleaning. (5)Continuing education, association dues. (6)Insurance for health, E&O, on the building. (7)Taxes on the building, the personal property. (8)Retirement plan. In the public sector all of this would be provided.

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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