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Salaries for Florida lawyers are on the rise: use of technology continues to grow. (Support 'Dignity in Law' on the Annual Bar Fee Statement).

The typical Florida lawyer is male, 45 years old, with 16 years of experience. He works in a firm with four other lawyers, two legal assistants and two legal secretaries, spends 51 hours a week in the office (only 30 of which are billable), and earned $85,000 in 2001.

Those are among the findings of The Florida Bar's 2002 Economics and Law Office Management Survey, which also found salaries are up for Florida lawyers, and they are making greater use of technology in their practices.

The average income for Florida attorneys rose by $3,000 over the past two years, while use of the Internet also saw a rise since the Bar's last membership survey, with more than 95 of respondents reporting they'd been on-line during the last three months, up from just 30 percent six short years ago.

Florida lawyers in private practice also reported spending an average 51 hours each week in the office and billing for 30 of those hours -- numbers identical to those reported two years ago.

The median 2001 income for Bar members was $85,000, up from $82,000 per year reported two years ago, and from $75,000 in 1998.

Complete survey results may be obtained from the Bar's Research, Planning and Evaluation Department by sending in the coupon at the end of this article.

The poll is taken every other year to keep lawyers informed on what their colleagues are doing in various areas of law office management.

This year's survey was completed by 665 lawyers from a sample of 2,740. The 24-percent response rate gives a 3.5-percent margin of error, according to Bar Senior Research and Evaluation Analyst Mike Garcia.

The survey found 77 percent of Florida lawyers are in private practice, while 16 percent are government lawyers or judges. The remainder work as corporate counsel, for legal aid offices or for other employers. Sixty-five percent of respondents report working in a firm or other legal setting with five or fewer lawyers, while 13 percent say they work with 26 or more attorneys.

Salaries and Benefits

Overall, 2002 income reported in the survey ranged from zero to $4 million.

Associates fresh out of law school averaged $40,000 in 2002 -- up $5,000 from the 2000 survey -- while new law grads with some experience made $42,500. The median for lawyers with fewer than three years of experience was $50,000, compared with $55,000 for those in practice three to five years, and $71,000 for those with six to eight years' experience.

Associates with more than eight years' experience had a median income of $90,000, up $5,000 from two years ago.

The survey found a partner or shareholder typically made $125,000, the same as two years ago.

Respondents reported 50 percent of their offices gross receipts in 2001 went to pay the lawyers in the office, while 20 percent went to support staff salaries, and the remaining 30 percent paid for all the other firm expenses.

The survey found 63 percent of Florida firms employ legal assistants/paralegals. The typical newly hired Legal assistant/paralegal without experience made $26,000 last year. Current legal assistants/paralegals with less than five years experience made $30,000, while those with five to 10 years experience made $35,000, and those on the job for more than 10 years pulled in $40,000.

The average salary for newly hired legal secretaries without experience was $25,000, compared with $28,000 for those with less than five years experience, $33,000 for those with more than five years of experience, and $38,0000 for those current employees with 10 years on the job.

For other law office employees, the survey found the following typical pay scales:

* Full-time office manager: $50,000.

* Secretary/office manager: $32,000.

* Bookkeeper (full time): $36,000.

* Bookkeeper (part time): $20,000.

* Marketing director: $50,000.

* Records manager: $33,000.

* Law clerk: $26,000.

Technology

The survey also found the use of technology continues to grow, and that 95 percent of Bar members had used the Internet in the past three months, compared to 84 percent from two years ago, 73 percent four years ago, and up from just 30 percent who answered the same question six years ago.

The poll found 99 percent of Florida firms and legal offices have Internet access, up from 85 percent two years ago and 76 percent in 1998.

Of those respondents who use the Internet, 83 percent say they use it at least once a day, compared with two years ago when 56 percent said they accessed the net at least once per day. Only 38 percent reported doing the same in 1998.

Forty-two percent of respondents this year said their main reason for using the Internet is to send and receive e-mail, followed by 35 percent whose main reason entails research and legal education, followed by 19 percent who said personal education/research, three percent for entertainment, and less than one percent for shopping.

Sixty-one percent of respondents said they have visited the Bar's home page (www.FLABAR.org), with 14 percent saying they visited the site more than 10 times last year. Of those who have visited the Bar's Web page, 85 percent said they did not have any problems finding what they were looking for.

When asked if the Bar were to create an Internet-based, customizable Web portal that would allow members to obtain various legal resources, links, search engines, as well as personalized news and information, 40 percent said they would use it, with another 43 percent indicating they "possibly" would use it. Of those who said they would or might use the Bar portal, 69 percent said they would "possibly" (51 percent), "very likely" (12 percent), or "almost certainly" (6 percent) make the portal their main PC desktop for daily information needs.

In order to further accelerate the Bar's current pace of expanding Web service features, 22 percent of respondents said they would approve of a minimal dues increase, 8-percent would be willing to pay a nominal access fee, while 70 percent would rather wait for new functions to arrive on a gradual basis.

Hiring and Demographics

According to the survey, 74 percent of respondents said their firms did not hire any recently admitted lawyers in 2001, and 75 percent of private firms don't plan on hiring any beginning lawyers in 2002.

The survey showed that women make up 29 percent of the Bar's membership, up from 27 percent in 2000 and 26 percent in 1998 and up 17 percentage points since the economic survey was initiated in 1984. African-Americans still make up 2 percent of the Bar, the same percentage as 10 years ago, and Hispanic lawyers account for 7 percent of the Bar, up 1 percent from two years ago.

More than one-third (35 percent) of all male lawyers are either managing partners or partner/shareholders,. while 17 percent of women lawyers currently hold those titles, according to the survey. Also, 28 percent of women lawyers are employed in a government practice position, compared to 10 percent of male lawyers.

Billable Hours

The poll showed 33 percent of Bar members billed fewer than 1,600 hours in 2001. Seven percent billed between 1,601 and 1,800 hours, 9 percent billed from 1,801 to 2,000 hours, and 12 percent said they billed more than 2,000 hours. A little more than one-third of all respondents (38 percent) said they do not maintain billable hours.
Median Florida Attorney Salaries (1998-2002)

 Salary
 Recent Law School Attorneys With 1 to 3
 Graduates Years Experience

1998 $34,000 $40,000
2000 $35,000 $42,000
2002 $40,000 $50,000

 Salary
 Attorneys With 8 or
 More Years Experience Partners

1998 $75,000 $100,000
2000 $85,000 $125,000
2002 $90,000 $125,000

Note: Table made from bar graph
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Article Details
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Author:Killian, Mark D.
Publication:Florida Bar News
Date:Jul 1, 2002
Words:1319
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