Some 80,000 lawyers call Washington home—that’s more than the attorney population of many countries. And though the lawyer stereotype suggests pinstripe suits and chauffeured town cars, the attorneys here handle a wide range of work for a wide range of salaries. A top rainmaker at a prominent law firm makes millions, but public-sector attorneys, such as prosecutors, often make well below six figures.
Big Firms, Big Bucks
Profits per partner at major Washington law firms exceed $1 million—and well-known partners make much more. Those reported here, from the National Law Journal, are for 2009.
Hogan Lovells (called Hogan & Hartson before merger), $1.21 million. Partners such as co-CEO J. Warren Gorrell Jr. take home more.
WilmerHale, $1.16 million. Partners who make more include former solicitor general Seth Waxman and former deputy attorney general Jamie Gorelick.
Williams & Connolly, $1.18 million. Who makes more? Brendan Sullivan Jr.
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, $1.91 million. Former solicitor general Theodore Olson makes more.
Legal recruiters estimate that the aforementioned partners make $3 million to $4 million annually where they are. If they decided to leave their firms, competing bids to recruit them could reach the $5-million-to-$10-million range.
A first-year associate at a top law firm—such as WilmerHale, Hogan Lovells, Covington & Burling, or Skadden—makes $160,000 before bonuses.
A summer associate at one of those firms takes home more than $3,000 a week.
Lawyers who leave big firms for government take big pay cuts—but almost always make up the difference when they return to private practice.
White House counsel Robert Bauer gets $172,000, compared with the $958,788 he made last year as a partner at Perkins Coie.
US attorney general Eric Holder gets $186,600, compared with $2.1 million at Covington & Burling in 2008.
New associate Supreme Court justice Elena Kagan actually got a raise, to $213,900, from her previous pay of $165,300 as solicitor general—but it’s still less than the $437,299 she made as dean of Harvard Law School.
Serving the Public
John G. Roberts Jr., chief justice, US Supreme Court, $223,500; associate justices, $213,900.
Deborah K. Chasanow, chief justice, US District Court for the District of Maryland, $174,000.
Gerald Bruce Lee, judge, US District Court, Alexandria, $174,000.
Ronald C. Machen Jr., US Attorney for the District of Columbia, $155,500.
Richard E.Trodden, Commonwealth’s Attorney, Arlington County, $163,717.
Glenn Ivey, State’s Attorney, Prince George’s County, $124,000.
Avis Buchanan, director, DC Public Defender Service, $155,000. DC public defenders start at $66,630.
Melinda Douglas, chief public defender, Alexandria, $109,294. Public defenders in Northern Virginia start at $54,059.
Leslie M. Alden, judge, Fairfax Circuit Court, $158,134.
Donald Haddock Jr., judge, General District Court, Alexandria, $142,329.
Robert Bell, chief judge, Maryland Court of Appeals, Annapolis, $181,352.
Patrick Woodward, judge, Maryland Court of Special Appeals, Montgomery County, $149,552.
Patrick Ridgeway Duley, judge, District Court of Maryland, Prince George’s County, $127,252.
Lee Satterfield, chief judge, DC Superior Court, $174,500.
Eric Washington, chief judge, DC Court of Appeals, $185,000.
This feature first appeared in the November 2010 issue of The Washingtonian.