Transactional Business Lawyer Salary

Business transactional lawyers typically work in large law firms.
Business transactional lawyers typically work in large law firms. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Business transactional lawyers do a broad range of legal work for business transactions, including contracts, taxes and mergers and acquisitions. Salaries for business transactional lawyers, like all lawyers, vary greatly based on where you work and your experience, clients and employer. However, depending on your credentials and what firm you work for, it can be easy to figure out what sort of starting salary to expect.

Business Transactional Lawyers Job Description

“Business transactional lawyer” is a broad term for lawyers to do transactional (non-litigation work) in corporate law. Corporate lawyers work in law firms that frequently have more than 100 lawyers and several offices that specialize in doing legal work for corporations. These law firms do expensive legal work that often bills at more than $200 an hour.

Firm Salaries

Law firms start their new lawyers, who are often fresh out of law school, as “associates.” These associates get paid a fixed salary based on their years of experience, no matter what legal department they work in. Some business transactional associates will be paid the same as litigation associates or any other type of associates. After six to eight years of good work with the firm, an associate will be promoted to partner and share in the equity of the firm. Few associates attain partnership. Those who do usually receive a large salary boost, and partners are usually paid based on how much money they bring in for the firm.

Large Firm Salaries

Thanks to generous reporting rules, large law firms publish their starting associate salaries. The Association of Legal Career Professionals publishes these salaries every year, along with a host of other information, in the "NALP Directory of Legal Employers." The starting annual salary for most associates in large legal markets -- such as New York; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Los Angeles; and Dallas -- is $160,000 plus bonuses as of 2011.

Firm Salaries in Smaller Markets

Salary is usually proportional to cost of living and work volume. New York lawyers work the most hours, but they also have the best salaries. Midlevel markets such as Charlotte or Atlanta have lower salaries, usually around $130,000. But lawyers there typically bill fewer hours each week than big city lawyers. Accordingly, small markets such as Denver or Indianapolis pay even less, sometimes as low as $100,000. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean salary for all firm lawyers nationally is $129,440. However, business transactional lawyers will typically make more than this because large firms with corporate clients tend to pay more than other law firms.

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