Atlanta big firm partners who responded to a just-released national partner pay survey make less money than the national average. Still, the majority said they were satisfied with their pay.
Average compensation was $665,000 for the 41 Atlanta partners who responded to legal recruiter Major, Lindsey & Africa’s biennial survey—lower than the $885,000 in average partner pay reported nationally.
Average total compensation by city ranged from a high of $1.448 million in New York to a low of $593,000 in Minneapolis for the 13 cities plus Silicon Valley broken out in the survey.
Pay tracked closely with origination dollars. The Atlantans reported originations of $2.1 million on average, compared with average originations of $2.57 million nationally. (New York partners reported the highest originations at $4.085 million, and those in Minneapolis reported the lowest: $1.427 million.)
That said, the Atlanta partners’ rates and billable hours hadn’t changed much from 2016, when Major, Lindsey & Africa last conducted the pay survey. Working attorney receipts for the Atlanta cohort declined slightly from $990,000 in 2016 to $940,000.
For Atlanta, the average hourly rate was $625, up from the $620 reported in 2016. The Atlanta partners reported billing an average of 1,633 billable hours (1,634 in 2016) and 643 nonbillable ones (746 in 2016), for a total of 2,276 hours on the job per year.
Nationally, the average hourly billing rate was $718, up 5 percent from 2016. That ranged from a high of $994 in New York and $885 in Washington, to lowest rates in Philadelphia ($618) and Minneapolis ($550).
New Yorkers on average reported putting in the same amount of overall work hours as the Atlantans, but they charged more and billed more hours. In addition to their higher average $994 rate, New York partners billed 1,724 hours on average, plus put in another 560 nonbillable hours, for a total of 2,284 hours annually.
While the Atlanta respondents reported pay lower than the average national pay, they said they were as happy—or unhappy—with their compensation as their national peers.
Overall, 58 percent of the Atlanta partners said they were “very or moderately satisfied” with their pay, compared with 57 percent nationally. Similarly 25 percent of the Atlantans were “slightly to very dissatisfied” with their pay—just under the 28 percent national pay dissatisfaction rate.
Major, Lindsey & Africa also asked partners how satisfied they were with being lawyers in general. Of the Atlanta partners, 59 percent were “very or moderately satisfied” with attorney life without taking their pay into consideration—and that jumped to 68 percent when factoring in pay.
That wasn’t so different from the New York respondents, the survey’s highest earners. Of the New Yorkers, 54 percent were “very or moderately satisfied” with their lot as attorneys without considering pay, which rose to 65 percent when taking pay into account.
The Major, Lindsey & Africa report found that Atlanta respondents’ average pay of $655,00 had dropped from $850,000 in 2016, but that could be a factor of which Atlanta partners chose to respond to the survey.
Only 41 Atlanta partners responded this year, down from 76 respondents in 2016, and 74 in 2014 (who reported average pay of $701,000).
The report was based on 1,390 responses from partners at Am Law 200, NLJ 350 or Global 100 firms. Acritas conducted the survey, and all results were confidential and anonymous.
Partners from the nation’s most expensive legal markets (New York, Washington, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and Chicago) responded at a higher rate, making up 601 or 43 percent of the total responses, which may also have skewed the average pay results higher.
One notable aspect of this year’s partner compensation survey was the persistence, or even worsening, of the gender pay gap, but that data was not broken out by city.
The Daily Report’s sibling publication The American Lawyer reports on the national pay gap findings. Notably, male partners at large U.S. firms reported earning $959,000 on average, compared with just $627,000 on average for female partners—a 53 percent difference.
The study pins much of the gap on originations. Male partners reported average originations of $2.788 million—a gain of 8 percent over 2016. That compares with $1.589 million for female partners—a decline of 8 percent from 2016.