Starting Salaries for Baltimore Lawyers

Today at lunch I was reading Baltimore Magazine.

This month’s issue includes the 2009 Salary Survey.
The material accompanying the survey states that the sources of the information used include first-person accounts, publicly filed documents, and various trade associations and labor statistics. The survey lists the average salary for a starting lawyer in Baltimore as $92,550.00.

My initial reaction was that I can’t see how this figure could be accurate. I would love to know the specifics of where this figure was obtained. Outside of a few large, well-known firms, the typical starting salary for a new lawyer is nowhere near this figure.

For one thing, new lawyers don’t really know how to do a whole lot. This alone makes it hard to justify a 92k salary. Ron Miller blogged about the following survey in May 2008:
McGuire Woods LLP: $145,000
Miles & Stockbridge P.C.: $140,000
Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll LLP: $140,000
Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office: $52,800
Baltimore City Public Defender’s Office: $52,949

It is easy to see the disparity between what “big law” pays its first-years and what young lawyers make working for the government. Where the data gets difficult is for private employers of attorneys.

Salary data is typically not available for Plaintiff’s firms or small to mid-size firms.
Ten years ago, when I was a new lawyer who didn’t know how to do anything, I was working at one of the best-known plaintiff’s firms in Baltimore. My starting salary was $35,000.00. At the time, this was about what new prosecutors or public defenders were paid. I can’t believe the salary landscape has changed that much in the last ten years.

I can’t help but wonder if the authors of Baltimore Magazine’s 2009 Salary Survey contacted the career services offices of the local law schools. I can’t prove the $92k salary quoted is inaccurate. If it is, I would love to see the raw data, because it sounds awfully high.

Also, congratulations to Miller & Zois lawyers Laura Zois and Rod Gaston, who were named Maryland Super Lawyers for 2009 by the publishers of Law & Politics and Baltimore Magazine. This is a second award for both. (Note: five lawyers from Miller & Zois, including me, were listed in SuperLawyers in 2010.)