The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is out with its annual employment report and the news is, once again, very positive for lawyers. Lawyers’ incomes and employment numbers have increased steadily over the last two decades (except for a decline in incomes in 2008 at the onset of the financial crisis).
The BLS reports that the total number of lawyers employed as of May 2016 was 619,530 compared with 609,930 the year before. Lawyers’ mean income was $118,160 compared to last year’s wage of $115,820.
The outlook here in California continues to be strong with 76,840 lawyers earning a mean annual wage of $162,010. This compares to 72,790 lawyers the year before who earned a slightly higher mean wage of $163,020.
The numbers in my region of Silicon Valley (Santa Clara County which includes Palo Alto but not Menlo Park) remain strong with 5,170 lawyers earning the nation’s highest mean wage of $197,320. This represents a correction against last year when there were 5,430 lawyers earning an annual wage of $204,010. This may reflect a shift in the epicenter of Silicon Valley to the social media companies now based in San Francisco. Lawyers employed there rose in the past year from 10,320 to 11,750 while incomes rose from $178,110 to $183,890.
There are some caveats to the data. Solo practitioners and partners in firms are not included in this data. I examined the prospects for solo practitioners here. The former may fall below the means reported here, while partner incomes could easily outpace those of “employed” lawyers so that the overall effect of the exclusions is minimized.