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Lawyer-equivalent staff figures

Randy Cadenhead, a lawyer at Cox Communications, suggested in a comment to my post of June 28, 2006 that “One metric to apply for comparison purposes would be to use average pay rates for the same level employee.” His thoughtful idea set me to digging and calculating.

According to the latest Hildebrandt International Survey of Law Departments, the ratios of median cash compensation would mean that one lawyer equals .43 paralegals, .32 non-attorney professionals, and .25 secretaries. Those ratios do not mean that four secretaries equal a lawyer other than from the standpoint of cost. This data comes from 130 companies that provided staff and compensation data in the 2005 Hildebrandt International Law Department Survey. It is based on median total cash compensation for 5,778 lawyers at $187,100; 838 non-attorney professionals (administrators, office managers, and other managers, for example, but excluding compliance staff) at $97,341; 1,722 legal assistants at $59,645; and 1,953 secretaries at $45,972.

Perhaps it would be better to limit ourselves to paralegals and non-attorney professionals, and even then downgrade the equivalencies. By that I mean, perhaps three paralegals equal a lawyer, and four non-attorney professionals equal a lawyer – only for purposes of trying to convert legal staff into an equivalent single figure. This is the reasoning of chess, where a general heuristic is that a horse equals three pawns, a rook five pawns, and a queen nine pawns.

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