Survey says civil legal aid lawyers still lowest-paid in legal profession

According to new statistics from the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), civil legal aid lawyers are still the lowest paid members of the entire legal profession, earning less than public defenders, many other public interest lawyers and in most instances far less than their counterparts in the private sector.

The statistics come from NALP’s 2010 Public Sector and Public Interest Salary Report, which was released on September 9 along with a companion report on the salaries of private sector lawyers.

According to the reports, entry-level civil legal aid lawyers earn a median salary of $42,000 a year—less than local prosecutors, public defenders and lawyers at public interest organizations. By comparison, the median starting salary of a first-year lawyer at a private law firm is $115,000. (Starting salary at Maryland Legal Aid is $50,425.)

The statistics also show that the salary situation for legal aid lawyers does not improve over time. If a legal aid lawyer stays with a legal aid program for 11 to 15 years, he or she can expect to earn about $63,000 a year, still less than all other public and private sector lawyers with similar experience.

NALP’s findings are consistent with the federal Legal Services Corp.’s salary statistics, which show that first-year staff attorneys at LSC grantees earn an average of $43,000 a year and can expect to earn about $59,000 a year after ten to 14 years of experience. Maryland Legal Aid is an LSC grantee.

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