Of Interest

SBM survey will assess current economic state of the legal profession


by Ebony Stith   |   Michigan Bar Journal

Every three years, the State Bar of Michigan conducts a survey to determine benchmarks for Michigan attorneys and calculate economic disparities within the legal profession. The State Bar in February will begin surveying all Michigan attorneys for its 2023 Economics of Law Report.

The survey compiles average income levels for more than 50 specific fields of practice and collects a variety of other data including race, gender, and geographic location. The State Bar last issued its Economics of Law Report in 2020, just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic — making this year’s survey even more significant because it will help determine the impact of the pandemic. The survey also will offer Michigan attorneys an opportunity to anonymously share their firsthand experiences related to the pandemic.

The survey helps calculate county-by-county and statewide average billing rates and income for both private and non-private practice attorneys in all occupation areas. This data is used by courts to determine attorney fees, and it can help all Michigan lawyers determine how their salaries measure up relative to their peers from across the state.

The last Economics of Law Report, which collected financial information from 2019, stated the median income for full- and part-time private practice attorneys was $150,000 and the average income was $223,496. The median income for non-private practitioners was $100,000 and the average income was $116,786.

For the survey, attorneys will be asked to identify their fields of practice and up to three geographical circuits where they practiced at least 30% of the time.

The 2023 Economics of Law Report will provide data about salaries, benefits, hours worked, and job satisfaction for attorneys categorized by occupation such as private practice, in-house counsel, government service, non-profit organizations, academia, legal services, and more.

The primary objectives of the Economics of Law Survey are:

  • Providing timely, relevant, and accurate information to inform and guide practical management and planning decisions by Michigan attorneys, including private and non-private practitioners, judiciary, and government workers.
  • Monitoring critical trends within the legal profession based on previous survey research and analysis.
  • Tracking and illustrating changes and trends within the legal profession, including:
    • attorney demographics;
    • attorney income by practice category, gender, the field of law, office location, work status (full- versus part-time), years in practice, and firm size;
    • prevailing average hourly billing rates by practice class, firm size, field of practice, judicial circuit, county, and office location;
    • time allocated to billable and non-billable professional activities;
    • law office management practices and perceptions regarding current and future economic circumstances related to law practice, including law school debt.

Michigan attorneys will receive emails inviting them to participate. Information also will be shared on the State Bar of Michigan social media channels. Those who complete the survey can be entered into a drawing for a chance to win one of two $500 Amazon gift cards and one of five $100 Amazon gift cards.

For past Economics of Law Survey results, visit our website at michbar.org.