How fun: We can now compare data about New York’s 1 percenters (as in income, in case you need reminding) against that trove of information in this year’s Am Law 100 rankings. If you’re nosy about where you and your friends stand, let the contest begin!
As you might have guessed, it doesn’t take much to be a 1 percenter if you’re a Big Law partner or investment banker in this town. According to Crain’s, $600,000 is the magic number you need to hit to join this tony club in New York (you only need $400,000 to qualify nationally). Crain’s says that 35,432 New York residents belong to this elite group; for the honor, members get to bear the burden of paying about half of all the income taxes collected in the state and city.
So if you are making, say, $1.5 million or so (remember, the average PPP among Am Law 100 partners for 2013 was $1,470,022), you probably think you’re pretty well-ensconced in that highly select club.
Well, prepare to be humbled.
Truth is, $1.5 million is peanuts in this city. The average income earned by New York’s 1 percenters is $2.7 million, according to Crain’s. Which means that if you’re making less than that amount, you’re officially below average—a bitter pill to swallow for a those who inhabit a profession where membership is generally a product of scoring in the top 1 percent on the LSAT and and almost every other measure.
Of course, for decades, even lawyers at the most prestigious firms felt poor next to their friends who worked in the financial sector. It used to be the I-bankers who eclipsed lawyers; in recent years, however, twenty-something hedge funders have also made lawyers feel inferior too.
But there was always a solidarity among Big Law’s hardworking stiffs. With the exception of Wachtell, where the profits have always been off the charts, there wasn’t a huge gap between partners at most big firm partners in terms of what they took home.
Alas, that seems to be changing. According to the latest Am Law numbers, 23 firms cleared $2 million in profit per partner last year. Even more amazing, partners at eight of those firms are now in the $3 milion-plus profit per partner club. A decade ago, only eight firms topped $2 million in PPP.
A difference in a few hundred thousand dollars is one thing. But a $1 or $2 million gap? Well, that’s where you’re bound to see a lifestyle—not to mention status—difference.
For those in the $3 million club, it means flying business-plus class to St. Barts for the entire family (nanny travels in coach); while those in $2 million club might have to settle for mere business class to a slightly less expensive island (say, Antigua).
And if you’ve only cleared $1 million, then it’s economy class (but you can splurge for the extra leg room) to Costa Rica. Sadly, for those making below $1 million, it’s stricly coach to the Dominican Republic or Mexico where you’ll have to slum it at Beaches during the shoulder season.
Of course, Goldman Sachs partners and hedge funders probably find all this fuss about a million here or there rather quaint. For them, only travel on a private jet to a private island will do.
Puts it all in perspective, no?
E-mail Vivia Chen: email@example.com Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/lawcareerist