Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Law Firm Compensation Plans


The Meaning of Pay

What makes lawyers happy? Is it the money, prestige, status? It seems most think so, at least in the beginning. It may explain why we make so many of them in the U.S. Despite the stereotype of the unscrupulous and venal ambulance chaser (think Seinfeld’s Jackie Chiles or Breaking Bad’s Saul Goodman), and the many lawyer jokes, the law is still well-regarded as a profession.

And it doesn’t hurt that it pays so well. And while pay is an important factor (which includes straight salaries or a share of profits), it’s not the only consideration. Of course, the relative importance of compensation and other factors in job contentment vary with the individual and the circumstance. Some are in it for the money. Many aren’t.

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What else is there? There’s to have a purpose in life, or to aid their clients, pride in their profession or the firm, for companionship, and for the approval of their peers, their spouses and relatives. But again, some are in it for the money but the importance of money on the list of what’s important isn’t a constant among lawyers. It’s importance can also change for the same lawyer at different times in their life.

For some, their share of profits or salary is the measure of their worth which is quite distinct from the purchasing power and wealth that money itself represents. Many lawyers view their compensation as the value their peers place on them personally.