While all partners may be created equal, they sure aren’t paid equally. That should come as no surprise to anyone who has worked in a law firm, but what is surprising is just how extensive the gap in partner pay can be. New data collected by American Lawyer reveals that discrepancies in partner pay are becoming tremendous.
AM Law asked each of their top 200 ranked law firms about partner compensation spreads, and 111 of those firms responded. The data was expressed as a ratio, so that a firm with a ratio of 18 means that the highest paid partner makes a salary 18 times that of the lowest paid partners. Both equity and non-equity partners were considered when calculating the ratio.
The average ratio among law firms within AM Law’s top 100 was 10.5 with a median of 9.3. For the second hundred firms, the average was 10.5 and the median was 10.0.
Topping the list with the highest partner salary gap are Lowenstein Sandler and Vedder Price, both tying for first place with a multiple of 24. That means that the firm’s highest paid partner makes a whopping 24 times what the lowest partner earns. Both law firms are extremely large, and the roles that the highest and lowest paid partners play in the massive operation were not specified.
Fish & Richardson came in second place, with a ratio of 23.79, and Perkins Coie had a ratio of 23. These four law firms were the only firms on the list to have ratios higher than 21.
On the lower end of the gap spectrum is Fitzpatrick, Cella, Harper & Scinto, whose highest paid partner only makes 3.23 times the salary of its lowest paid partner. Also with ratios less than 4 are Jenner & Block and Baker Donelson, with ratios of 3.6 and 3.75 respectively.
An important note in this data is that only a little more than half of the law firms ranked in the AM Law 200 responded to the survey, meaning that several law firms may have a much higher ratio for their partners.