We can now compare data about New York’s 1 percenters (as in income, in case you need reminding) against this year’s Am Law 100 rankings — NLJ affiliate The American Lawyer ‘s list of the largest law firms by revenue.
It doesn’t take much to be a 1 percenter if you’re a large-firm partner or investment banker in New York City. According to Crain’s, $600,000 is the magic number to join this club in that city (you only need $400,000 to qualify nationally). Crain’s reports that 35,432 New York residents belong to this elite group.
So if you are making, say, $1.5 million or so (remember, the average profits per partner among Am Law 100 partners for 2013 was $1.47 million), 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 New York. The average income earned by the city’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.
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 investment bankers who eclipsed lawyers; in recent years, however, 20-something hedge funders have made ­lawyers feel inferior, too.
But there was always a solidarity among Big Law’s hard -working stiffs. With the exception of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, where the profits have always been off the charts, there wasn’t a huge gap between partners at most big firm s 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 profits per partner.
A difference in a few hundred thousand dollars is one thing. But a $1 million or $2 million gap? 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 strictly coach to the Dominican Republic or Mexico, where you’ll have to slum it at Beaches.
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.