Cravath raised associate pay to great heights back in February 2022, with first- through eighth-year associates taking home healthy salaries ranging from $215,000 to $415,000. After more than a year of taking home these generous paychecks, you may be wondering how associates are doing when it comes to living their best lives. As it turns out, some associates are living much larger than others — and it’s all because of where they live.
The American Lawyer recently compared the cost of living in 30 U.S. cities with the self-reported salaries of more than 1,500 third-year associates to determine where Biglaw associates can get the best bang for their buck. Here’s their methodology:
Using the nation’s highest cost-of-living region as our baseline—Manhattan, New York—we calculated the average base compensation reported by associates in 30 other U.S. cities. Then, we used Bankrate’s Cost of Living Comparison Calculator (which queries C2ER data) to find out how much an associate would need to make in those cities to maintain the lifestyle of someone making the current market rate of $250,000 as a third-year associate in Manhattan. The cost of living index factors in data points like housing, food, utilities, transportation, health care, and other goods and services.
Subtracting the latter figure from the average salaries, we arrived at an approximate surplus figure for each city—the money you’d have left over if you lived approximately the same lifestyle as a Manhattan associate, but in another city on that city’s average Big Law salary.
So, which cities are the best for Biglaw associates based on this calculation? Where can associates get the best combination of high compensation with a low cost of living?
Without further ado, these are the 10 cities where associates can stretch their salaries the furthest:
- Houston, TX: $143,256 surplus
- Charlotte, NC: $136,909 surplus
- Austin, TX: $136,683 surplus
- Hartford, CT: $133,826 surplus
- Baltimore, MD: $132,061 surplus
- Tampa, FL: $130,225 surplus
- Dallas, TX: $128,036 surplus
- Pittsburgh, PA: $127,004 surplus
- Atlanta, GA: $126,587 surplus
- Philadelphia, PA: $124,035 surplus
Click here to see the rest of the list.
And what about the worst cities for Biglaw associates in terms of making their money work for them? Here’s more from Am Law:
Unsurprisingly, the West Coast and Northeast were the most expensive markets for cost of living—San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Boston and Seattle followed Manhattan for cost of living and offered roughly the same compensation as cheaper cities like Philadelphia and Dallas.
Say sayonara to big East and West Coast cities and pack your bags, associates, because it looks like it may be time to move to Texas, the Southeast, or the Rust Belt to truly enjoy your bountiful Biglaw salaries.
Where Do Big Law Associates Live the Largest? [American Lawyer]
Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter and Threads or connect with her on LinkedIn.