Sunday, May 15, 2011

New Lawyer Career Realities: Commission Only on Legal Fees Brought Into the Firm

Friday I was in a court office in a suburban county courthouse.  A young woman was there talking with the court staff and the judge about how she had passed the bar and would be sworn in as a new lawyer in another week. 

As a clerk at the law firm she said she was getting paid an hourly rate, but when she gets sworn in as an attorney she will strictly be on commission i.e. only getting paid a percent of the work she brings into the firm.  In other words working at the law firm for no salary and not even so much as the minimum wage hourly rate.   I would add that most new lawyers don't have the capability to bring much in the way of work into a law firm.

The lawyer to be then went on to say that she would have to start paying back her student loan soon and that the payments would be $1,200 a month.

No hourly, no salary...commission only.  That's the future for many people who are now graduating from law school.  Partners don't have to pay for associates any more.  The market is so saturated, quality new attorneys are willing to work for next to nothing.

The judge said he always tells people considering entering into the legal profession to not do it.  While I did not want to speak up given I wasn't part of the conversation, I'd like to now just say "Amen" to the judge's comment.


Covenant60 said...

She may as well start her own practice then.

But I assume the firm will guarantee her some business. If they wont pay her a salary, are they gonna 1099 her?

When I started in a very small firm, my deal was the same as that girl's. I got referrals from the firm, and paid them a percentage of my collections to pay for my share of overhead.

Since I left the prosecutor's office, I have never been paid a salary.

Paul K. Ogden said...

I think it depends on the firm. You might go to some and get no referrals at all. I've seen firms which don't guarantee anything...but they provide the support staff, copies, parking, etc.

Cato said...

Worse, it's now not even a respected profession. After years of cops, prosecutors and judges flat-out lying to get their way, nobody takes the legal system seriously. It's now seen as just another rip-off racket.

Law school isn't hard to get into, and the discipline of law lacks the academic rigor of the arts and sciences.

Law school is just an expensive and needless toll booth for a low-paying career. A J.D. is scant more estimable than a Master of Social Work, and just as employable.

If you want to make money in law, come from a rich family who will ensure you get a good job, or lose all your scruples (if you ever had any), and do whatever it takes to use your license to get money from other people, e.g., sue over hot coffee, chase ambulances, defend immoral corporations or lobby.

guy77money said...

Hey Cato you forgot work for a firm that is billing the government. Then you can charge two to four times the amount you would normally bill a regular client.

Paul K. Ogden said...

An associate is not going to make any money at a firm that chases ambulances, sues over spilled coffee, etc. Only the partners are going to make money. My discussion was about associates.

Cato said...

It's not just law grads.

85% of college grads move back home with a debt load of $23K.

The country is collapsing. Each generation can expect a worse standard of living than the previous one. We simply have too many workers for each job.

The way out is to have women return to the home and raise children. This removal of women from the workforce will drop income tax revenues and reduce government, while cutting rents and housing prices.

There is a theory that holds that women's liberation was created by the power elite to get tax revenues from the other half of the population. Whatever the reason, America since 1970 has been in steady decline.

TammyInIndy said...


Did you just seriously write that?