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Bar survey examines wages, profitability, and hourly rates

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Survey respondents indicated the median salary for recent law school grads with no experience in 2022 was $65,000. Recent law school grads with experience (internship, clerkship) was $70,000. The rate jumped to $80,000 for lawyers with fewer than three years of experience; $90,000 for those in practice three to five years

Size of firms or legal officeNet income for the typical Florida lawyer rose by $25,000 over the past four years to an average of $125,000, according to The Florida Bar’s 2022 Economics and Law Office Management Survey.

Florida lawyers in private practice also reported spending an average 50 hours each week in the office and billing for 27 of those hours.

The median 2022 net income of $125,000 for Bar members was up from $100,000 in 2018, a figure that has held steady since the 2014 survey.

Thirty-five percent of respondents report that their profitability increased over the past two years, and 37% expect to see an increase in business in the next two years.

The Bar poll is taken to keep lawyers informed on what their colleagues are doing in various areas of law office management. This year’s survey was completed by 516 lawyers from a random sample of 3,120 in-state members. The response rate gives a 4% margin of error at a 95% level of confidence, according to Mike J. Garcia, director of the Bar’s Research, Planning, and Evaluation Department.

The survey also found:

  • 34% of respondents report an average monthly accounts receivable balance of $10,000 or less, while 28% report an average balance of more than $50,000.
  • 44% have a hurricane/disaster preparedness plan.
  • 67% carry professional liability insurance.
  • 42% use both a laptop and a desktop in their daily practice.
  • 38% use cloud technology to store data.
  • 48% report that they provided free legal services to people of limited means within the past 12 months.

Compensation

Survey respondents indicated the median salary for recent law school grads with no experience in 2022 was $65,000. Recent law school grads with experience (internship, clerkship) was $70,000. The rate jumped to $80,000 for lawyers with fewer than three years of experience; $90,000 for those in practice three to five years.

Lawyers with six to eight years’ experience are averaging $100,000. Lawyers with more than eight years on the job are averaging $120,000 per year, and partners and shareholders are pulling in an average of $175,000 a year. Lawyers in the northern region of the state make slightly less than their colleagues in the central/southwest and southern regions of Florida.

Sixty-five percent of those surveyed say they are satisfied with their salary and fringe benefits.

Fifty-two percent of respondents report that they work at least 50 hours per week, while 20% report that they work at least 60 hours per week. The survey found no difference between men and women in the number of hours they put in per week.

The survey results indicate 80% of Florida lawyers are in private practice, while 14% are government lawyers or judges. The remainder work as corporate counsel, for legal aid offices, for other employers, or are not employed.

Almost a quarter (24 percent) of all women respondents are employed in government practice positions, compared to 6% of male respondents.

Sixty-four percent of respondents report either operating a solo practice or working in a firm or other legal setting with five or fewer lawyers, while 13%  say they work with more than 25 attorneys. Overall, 75% operate a solo practice or work in firms consisting of 10 or fewer lawyers, with 36% indicating they are in offices consisting of only one attorney.

A large majority of respondents are satisfied with their relations with co-workers (92%), challenging responsibilities (91%), and general working conditions (91%).

Yet, when asked if they would pursue the legal profession as a career if they were making the decision again, only 50% said “yes.” Another 21% said “no,” and 29% of respondents were “not sure.”

Technology

Seventy-one percent of respondents report that technology has changed their relationships with clients for the better, with only 7% claiming it’s for the worse.

In a multiple-response question asking where they generally go for technology or cybersecurity assistance, 42% rely on the services of an in-firm consultant/IT department, and 41% say an outside consultant/technology support group. Only 4% indicated they turn to the Bar for help. Fifty-two percent say they have a relationship or contract with an IT company.

Billable Hours

The poll showed that 67% of all respondents maintain billable hours, and, for those who keep them, 37% report having over 1,600 billable hours in 2021. Slightly over one-quarter (26%) report having over 1,800 billable hours, compared to one-third (33%) who report having 1,000 billable hours or less. The median number of billable hours is 1,400.

The survey found 85 percent of respondents list their hourly rate at being over $275, while 54% report their hourly rate at being over $350. In 2016, the number of lawyers who reported charging more than $300 an hour was only 36%.

Contingency Fees

Slightly over one-third (34%) of all respondents report their firms handle contingency fee cases. Of those who accept cases on a contingency basis, the majority say those types of cases comprise 25 percent or less of the total cases handled. Forty-eight percent of those handling contingency cases report 33% is the average percentage of the award they receive if they win the case.

Other Findings

Only 28% of respondents report their firm or legal office provides limited-scope representation. Consultation services (51%), conducting document review (44%), drafting contracts and agreements (44%), and legal guidance or opinions (44%) are the most frequently mentioned unbundled legal services that are being provided.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents report that client expectations is a factor having a major impact on their ability to successfully practice law, while almost three-fifths (57%) report work-life balance as a factor having a major impact. Only 37% said the economy was having a major impact.

Only 12% of respondents report they would be willing to participate as a provider for a prepaid legal services company if that meant that they would answer questions by phone and write letters for a reduced, prepaid amount per client.

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