About forty percent of all lawyers are solo practitioners. Another large percentage of all lawyers find themselves in very small partnerships, e.g., two or three lawyers, which is essentially the same thing as being a solo practitioner. So if you go to law school, the odds are great that this is where you’ll end up. Therefore, before you take the plunge and spend all that money on tuition, and yet another three years sitting in a classroom, you should take a look at what kind of money you can expect to earn. Now, I’ve written several times about the
incredibly embarrassingly low pay for solo lawyers, including here and here. But, as the law professors like to say, that
was just “anecdotal.” So here’s some
better salary data.
In The Collapsing Economics of Solo Legal Practice, Paul Campos graphically demonstrates that average solo pay has actually fallen from $75,000 to $50,000 in the last twenty-five years. But how does that compare to the average American worker? Many solos complain that car mechanics and plumbers make more than lawyers – but is that true? It probably is. In 1988, solo lawyers made about 190 percent of the average American wage. That’s not bad, but not great, considering that law school requires seven years of education and many jobs included in the “average American wage” require nothing beyond high school.
But since 1988, things have gotten even worse. In 2012, solo lawyer pay slipped to about 110 percent (from 190 percent) of the average American wage. But because the “average American wage” includes part-time workers, fast-food workers, and others who don’t have to spend seven years and a quarter-million dollars to listen to professors, things are far worse than even those numbers would suggest.
So, in short, if one of your goals is to make a lot of money, or even a good wage, or even a wage better than the average American worker, you might want to consider a path other than law school.