On July 8, watch your newspaper for a picture of a little girl sleeping under a blanket imprinted with an image of the U.S. Constitution, with the caption: "Security Blanket." It's the first installment in a 13-month, $2.5 million advertising campaign by the American Bar Association to promote the Constitution in a time of terror and get people talking about security and democracy. After all, ads sell. And why shouldn't the lawyers pay for a bit of Constitutional image rebuilding? Without that stained, dog-eared, pissed on, misread, half-shredded little 'ol document, they'd be out of jobs.
It's easy to think of lawyers as greedy, overpaid blood-sucking pigs. But do we have any clue what lawyers earn? Yes we do, thanks to American Lawyer Media's (via law.com) annual roundup of lawyer compensation. Not all of which is surprising. For example, partners at the top corporate firms like Wachtell Lipton, or Cravath, Swaine & Moore or Davis Polk each averaged millions in 2001 ($3,285,000, $2,245,000 and $1,740,000, respectively). Even piddly little first year associates at those firms got $125,000 to start. (We're talking 24-year-old law school grads with precisely zero professional experience and know-how. Zero.) But most newbie lawyers don't win those jobs. Also difficult to land are entry-level positions at district attorneys' offices, but they're not nearly as lucrative. A junior Manhattan D.A. earned $45,000 last year (up from $42,000 in 2000). But locking up criminals beats toiling for civil rights at a not-for-profit like the New York Civil Liberties Union, which paid entry-level lawyers only $35,000 last year. Over all, best off are lawyers who work for big companies. Top counsel at IBM last year earned a measly $506,000 in cash (salary & bonus), but throw in stocks & options and his compensation totaled $7,795,613. Compared to that, you have to worry about the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court whose family in 2001 had to struggle along on $192,600.