November 7, 2007
Associate Salaries and Judges and Law Professors
The WSJ.com Law Blog reports that second year salaries at the larger New York City firms will top $225,000, which is higher than the pay of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts ($212,000) and substantially higher than the average salary of federal district court judges ($165,000). Comments to the blog worry about adverse selection on the bench. What kinds of folks will want to be judges? I have commented on this before here, mentioning a study of the politics of new judicial appointments (they are overwhelmly ex-public interest lawyers and ex-public officials and, to a far lesser extent, ex-academics). There should also a concern about adverse selection problems for law professors. What kinds of folks will want to be law professors? Again the answer seems obvious -- public interest and social engineering types.
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Well, maybe that's true to an extent, but I think you'll always be able to come up with a number of good candidates from the business bar for the bench. Being a judge is prestigious, and there are a number of private practice lawyers who have built up a good nest egg and don't mind being a judge as a sort of semi-retirement.
Also, keep in mind that $165K is a lot of money in a lot of parts of America. Also, the pay gap is astounding really only in the big cities: First year associates in New York may make $200K, but first year associates in, say, North Carolina, only make about $140K. In fact, partners at a lot of mid sized firms in smaller markets probably don't make much more than $200K.
Really, the judicial salary problem is only acute in a few places: New York, DC, LA, Chicago, and Boston. But this isn't a problem that's specific to judges; it's a problem that you have with respect to all gov'n jobs. For example, I'd love to be a prosecutor, and I'd do it if I lived in North Carolina, since $100K goes a long way there. But there's no way in hell you can raise a family on $100K in NYC.
Posted by: anon | Nov 7, 2007 8:58:52 AM