Armanino Blog

Average Compensation for Law Firm Associates Jumps

by John Schweisberger
November 21, 2018

How does your firm compare to its peers on compensation in 2018? Are you still competitive with other law firms in the area?

Results from our annual Law Firm Compensation, Billing Rates and Benefits Survey show that compensation is up, especially for associates. Here are just a few of the high-level findings from our detailed 2018 survey of 134 firms (representing more than 10,000 people) in the Los Angeles/Orange County region.

Significant compensation hikes

In the current strong economy, billing rates are up at law firms in the LA/Orange County area, which improves overall firm revenue and supports increased compensation for:

  • Associates: The average base compensation for associates saw a 13% increase in 2018 after being essentially flat since 2014.
  • Non-equity partners: Total compensation for non-equity partners increased 8% compared to last year.
  • Equity partners: Equity partners experienced only a 2% increase compared to 2017 (the Bay Area saw equity partner compensation increase by 7%).
  • Chief marketing officers (CMOs): The CMO position continued its steady and significant trend upward, with average total compensation of $293,125 in 2018. This reflects the increasing level of strategic importance that marketing represents within law firms today.

Pay is starting to catch the Bay Area

A comparison of the LA/Orange County results with findings from the San Francisco Bay Area survey indicates that while compensation is still higher in the north, the south is starting to catch up, at least for associates. Associates in Southern California saw annual base salary increases of 13%, compared to Bay Area increases of 4%. This gain decreased the earnings gap by six percentage points, with associates in the south now receiving 16% lower average compensation than their northern counterparts.

Equity partners still make more

Even though billing rates in the Bay Area are higher than Southern California, and equity partner compensation increased by 7% in the Bay Area, equity partners in LA/Orange County still receive more than their northern counterparts in average total compensation.

Get more details

For more than two decades, we’ve provided unique insights into compensation trends in Los Angeles and Orange County. Our annual survey again includes San Diego, the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle/Puget Sound, as well.

You can learn more about compensation for nearly 100 positions — partners, attorneys, executive directors, paralegals, legal secretaries, administrators, CFOs and more — in the full report. It details competitive compensation, billing rates, hours and staff ratios across many demographic segments, including practice areas, locations, firm sizes and positions.

To get the Los Angeles/Orange County report or learn about the results for San Diego, the San Francisco Bay Area or Seattle/Puget Sound, contact Crystal Lee at [email protected].

November 21, 2018

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