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Would you say a lawyer can make more / be more employable than the average lawyer if they can take software-related cases?



That is more complicated than you might think. In a lot of ways the legal profession is only a semi-functioning market--at least compared to software. On one hand, there are fairly amazing and very longstanding restrictions on how attorneys can market their services. This makes it harder (or outright impossible) for an attorney to market, so that diminishes (but does not eliminate) comparative technical advantage. On the other hand, salaries for most starting attorneys (i.e, associates) are fixed nationwide and proceed, generally, in lockstep, so almost all firms will pay the same, regardless of technical skill. So, the attorney is likely more "employable," but the market signals are substantially muted.


On the other hand, salaries for most starting attorneys (i.e, associates) are fixed nationwide and proceed, generally, in lockstep, so almost all firms will pay the same, regardless of technical skill.

This is not true at all. Salaries for starting lawyers at "BigLaw" firms are generally fixed...but only by firm and by location. So Firm A in NYC pays $XXXk but their LA office only pays $YYYk. Firm B probably pays close to $XXXk in NYC but might pay $ZZZk. And if you go down to the smaller firms, they could pay anywhere from $40k to $XXXk based on location, type of law, etc.

After the first year, very few firms are lockstep with regards to raises...in the past few years, I think only 1 or 2 major firms is still on the lockstep model. Raises after 2nd year are almost universally based on performance, which depends heavily on technical skill (technical meaning legal, not programming, skills).


Are you sure this is true?

It seems -to-edit many more than one or two of this hundred https://www.vault.com/best-companies-to-work-for/law/top-100... are still paying lockstep.

Cravath still lists lockstep raises for years 1-7. Skadden years 1-8. Latham 1-9. Davis Polk 1-6. Etc. Are the firms reporting one thing but actually doing something else?


With respect to the BigLaw firms cited, yes, since Cravath is the only one that is actually doing lockstep.

They rest don't do lockstep anymore. On paper they start with lockstep, but actual raises are based on performance, location, legal group, etc. I have enough friends at Skadden and Latham in different offices to confirm that.


I've never heard of anyone who hit their billable minimums (e.g. 1900, 2k, etc) not get bumped to the next year. Although I guess there's a bit of a dance that happens years 5/7-9 for people who think they have a shot at partner.


Doesn't the lockstep go away after only a promotion or two when the attorneys get promoted beyond senior associate? I guess that's still the better part of a decade, though.


The promotions are based on business case, especially as you get senior. To make a business case for partnership practicing technology law at BigLaw you need to have a decade or more of doing that as an associate, where you get paid more or less the same as everyone else at your level. In fact it can be harder to meet your targets / make your bonuses because technology law tends to be faster moving than other areas so proportionally more time needs to be spent on professional developer, as against fee earning.


Interesting, thanks. I always wondered if there is carry over to law if you know say, finance or SE well.


No. While a lawyer can build a lucrative practice around software/tech clients, the legal issues are not really unique to software. Learning to recognize/handle legal issues common to tech companies does not require programming skills.

Though, an exception would be patent attorneys. Patent attorneys with CS/EE degrees are usually in high demand.




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