While many New York law firms have invaded the West Coast, cannibalizing existing firms in order to gain better access to the growing business on the Pacific rim, other New York law firms have had to shut down. I can name several venerable New York firms who are out of business due to the escalation of legal salaries.
One cause of high legal salaries is the easier money of the investment banking industry. Investment bankers have been raiding law firms for lawyers to help process mergers.
Tax laws are so arranged that a business can deduct attorneys' fees, but individuals normally cannot. Tax deductibility of fees constitutes a government subsidy for law work. Thus subsidized, businesses can afford to pay higher legal salaries; individuals cannot. How can an individual with non-deductible cases compete for lawyers services which are deductible?
Also, law firms are increasing unwilling to do pro bono work. Salaries for pro bono lawyers may run one-tenth of the salaries paid partners in the large law firms.
STEPHEN I. ZETTERBEG