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Wisconsin lawyers rank in middle ground for pay

Data tabulated by the salary research site show that San Francisco and Dallas have the highest median pay for “mid-career” lawyers with 10 to 15 years of experience: $157,000 in San Francisco and $141,000 in Dallas.

Washington, D.C. ($138,000), New York City ($136,000) and Houston ($132,000) round out the top-five major metropolitan markets in terms of median pay for lawyers in the middle of their careers. In Wisconsin, the median pay is $106,680 for “mid-career” lawyers. The pay ranks in the 50th percentile across the U.S.

San Francisco ($101,000) and Dallas ($91,200) also lead the way in terms of median pay for associates with 3 to 5 years of experience, according to the site.

“Intellectual property has remained strong in San Francisco, and this boosts salary and demand,” said Toni Whittier, founder of Whittier Legal Consulting in Dallas. “The globalization that we were beginning to see has resurfaced, and the Asia-California connection makes the San Francisco market stronger as a result.”

Regarding Dallas, Whittier said that the city has “regained its footing” as a legal market.

“There is a lot of commercial litigation in Dallas,” she said. “Dallas also has seen a rise in intellectual property litigation.”

On the other end of the scale is Philadelphia, which has the lowest annual pay for lawyers at both levels of experience, with earnings of $71,300 and $116,000 respectively, according to

The statistics are based on an attorney’s “total cash compensation,” which includes annual salary, bonuses, profit sharing, commissions and other forms of cash earnings. They do not include stock compensation, cash value of retirement benefits or the value of other non-cash benefits, such as health care. The site analyzes data for the top ten metropolitan areas by population in the U.S. The complete statistics are below:

National median:

Mid-career attorney (10 to 15 years of experience) $117,000;
Associate attorney (3 to 5 years of experience) $75,500

Median mid-career attorney pay:

San Francisco $157,000
Dallas $141,000
Washington, D.C. $138,000
New York $136,000
Houston $132,000
Chicago $130,000
Los Angeles $127,000
Atlanta $126,000
Boston $119,000
Philadelphia $116,000
Wisconsin $106,680

Median associate pay:

San Francisco $101,000
Dallas $91,200
Los Angeles $90,400
Washington, DC $87,800
Houston $84,300
New York $78,900
Boston $75,900
Chicago $75,700
Atlanta $74,100
Philadelphia $71,300
Wisconsin $66,484

As reported by Oct. 3, 2012.

On an ominous note,’s data shows erosion in the median pay of mid-career attorneys nationwide. The most recent numbers show the national median for mid-career attorneys to be only $117,000, a $9,000 drop from last year’s figure of $126,000.

“The numbers found in this report seem to suggest that pay for lawyers is down slightly this year over last year,” said lead economist Katie Bardaro in a statement. “This partially may be due to a weaker economy, an influx of lawyers to the labor market, and/or a decrease in spending on legal services.”

Whittier said that part of the explanation for the lower median salary may be the continuing trend of attorneys moving to smaller firms, a trend that started during the recession.

“There are certainly a lot of things happening at the mid-career level that can impact salary, including attorneys taking advantage of alternative tracks,” he said.

For associates, the national median for pay dropped only $400, from $75,900 in 2011 to $75,500 this year.

Whittier said that she did not expect to see substantial increases in associate compensation for at least several years.

Even the usually recession-proof Boston market saw a dip in median pay for the mid-career category of lawyers, according to In 2012, the median for Boston’s mid-career attorneys was $119,000, down from $120,500 in 2011.

On the other hand, Boston’s 3- to 5-year associates saw a modest rise in their median pay, from $74,200 to $75,900 over the last year.

Lawyers with 3 to 5 years of experience in Wisconsin earned an average of $66,484. The pay ranks in the 50th percentile in the nation.

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