News & Politics

Who Makes How Much: Lawyers

Here's what Washingtonians get paid for the work they do

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.

Subscribe to Washingtonian
Follow Washingtonian on Twitter

Editor in chief

Sherri Dalphonse joined Washingtonian in 1986 as an editorial intern, and worked her way to the top of the masthead when she was named editor-in-chief in 2022. She oversees the magazine’s editorial staff, and guides the magazine’s stories and direction. She lives in DC.