Law firm partners in Dallas saw their compensation jump 55 percent in 2018 compared with 2016, while compensation for partners in Houston dropped by 14 percent during the same period, according to a new survey by Major, Lindsey & Africa.
In Dallas, partners’ average compensation totaled $1.128 million in 2018, compared with $727,000 two years before. In Houston, partners’ total compensation averaged $914,000 in 2018, compared with $1.062 million in 2016 according to Major Lindsey’s 2018 Partner Compensation Survey. The last time the recruiting firm conducted the pay survey was in 2016.
The survey found that 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.
Jeffrey Lowe, global practice leader for Major Lindsey’s law firm practice, said Dallas compensation rose so much over the two years because so many big firms moved into Dallas.
“There’s been some huge heavy hitters who entered the market the last couple years and there’s been a tremendous amount of competition in that market,” Lowe said. “It’s not unlike what we saw in 2016 when firms started to get back into Houston.”
The Texas legal market, and Dallas in particular, has been changing at a frenzied pace this year as some big Texas firms merged, a number of out-of-state firms opened Texas offices, and many lawyers around the state made lateral moves.
Originations, which tend to track compensation trends, were up 67 percent in Dallas in 2018 compared with 2016, but declined by 20 percent in Houston during the same period, according to the survey.
For the 2018 survey, Major Lindsey gathered responses from 1,390 partners in the United States working at Am Law 200, NLJ 350 or Global 100 firms. Major Lindsey conducted the survey with legal market intelligence and research specialists Acritas.
Partners in Dallas were more satisfied with their compensation than lawyers in Houston. In Dallas, 76 percent of lawyers were satisfied to some degree with their compensation, compared with only 66 percent of partners in Houston.
Dallas partners were also more satisfied with their life when compensation was considered a factor. A total of 83 percent of partners in Dallas were satisfied on some level, while only 73 were satisfied in Houston.
When compensation was not considered as a factor in life satisfaction, 89 percent of Dallas partners said they were satisfied, while in Houston, the number was only 69 percent.
Lowe said that typically, the higher the compensation, the higher the level of satisfaction, which may explain why satisfaction levels are higher in Dallas.
“Attorneys are pretty happy being attorneys, and money is part of it,” he said.
The gender pay disparity was a key finding in the fifth biennial survey, which found that male partners are earning $959,000, on average, at large U.S. firms, compared with $627,000 on average for female partners. This means male partners are earning 53 percent more than female partners.
Of the partners who responded to the survey, 28 percent said they believe a gender pay gap exists within their firm. But 67 percent of female partners and only 11 percent of male partners believe there is a gender pay gap.
Lowe said those results should be a wake-up call for firms.
“Looking at the whole industry, everybody has some thinking to do,” he said.