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Where Lawyers Live and How Far Their Dollar Goes

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on October 02, 2015 6:57 AM

We all know the legal market is in flux, still recovering from its 2007 downturn. But that recovery isn't even across the nation. As a recent ABA attorney population survey shows, some states, like Florida, have seen their legal sectors explode over the last ten years. Others are still well behind where they once were. (Sorry, Massachusetts.)

So where is the legal population increasing today? And more importantly, how far does your money go there?

Where the Legal Market Grows and How Far Your Cash Will Go

Where lawyers live is interesting on its own. But what's even more interesting is how much they pay in rent. According to a recent salary survey released by Robert Half Legal, the average first year, large firm associate can expect to make between $116,000 and $143,500 in 2016. We'll split the difference and go with an average of $130,000. We've applied that price to state costs of living to see what that salary looks like in relative dollars. (We know, salary and cost of living are much more dependent on the city, not state. We're painting in broad strokes here.)

The list below shows not just where lawyers are, but the relative worth of their salaries in each state.

22 States Ahead of the Curve

According to the ABA, the national lawyer population increased by 17.7 percent between 2005 and 2015, coming up to 1,300,705 lawyers total. That increase wasn't even, however. The following states all came out ahead of the curve. Some, like Florida and Utah, came out way ahead.

State Total Lawyers % Increase Relative Value of $130K
Florida 74,258 53.3 131,573
Utah 8,413 46.1 133,744
North Carolina 23,136 33.7 141,765
Arizona 16,155 30.6 133,887
North Dakota 1,665 27.9 142,233
Tennessee 17,965 27.8 143,494
Wyoming 1,778 27.6 135,694
Pennsylvania 48,992 27.4 131,846
Georgia 31,349 25.7 141,453
Delaware 2,921 25.4 128,206
Texas 86,494 24.6 134,433
Nevada 6,858 24.3 132,379
Colorado 21,094 23.6 127,205
D.C. 52,089 22.3 110,448
Kentucky 13,448 21.3 145,899
New York 172,630 21.1 112,749
Indiana 15,883 20.5 142,233
Idaho 3,736 20.2 140,088
South Carolina 10,031 20 143,650
California 165,952 19.1 115,765
Maryland 23,902 18.5 117,221
Alabama 14,630 18.2 148,239

11 States Treading Water -- With Some Drowning

Some states have barely maintained growth in their legal markets, others have actually experienced negative growth. Illinois, for example, has the fifth largest legal population, but it's still has less lawyers today than in 2005. Here are the states where growth hasn't exceeded 10 percent in the last ten years:

State Total Lawyers % Change
Relative Value of $130K
Rhode Island 4,224 -11.8    132,522
Massachusetts 43,974 -11.7    121,160
Illinois 63,211 -1    128,713
Connecticut 18,665 3.8    119,821
Vermont 2,272 5.1    129,740
Alaska 2,456 6.4    122,642
Hawaii 4,193 6.7    111,878
Ohio 38,849 7.7    145,093
Nebraska 5,361 7.8    143,169
Mississippi 7,059 8.6    149,773
New Jersey 41,569 9.1    113,542

Don't see your state? Consider yourself lucky! You're doing just well enough to go unnoticed.

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