Staff Attorney Salary Supplementation

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For more information contact Jennifer Wimberly

Effective as of the 2014-15 grant year, The Florida Bar Foundation has suspended its Salary Supplementation Grant Program due to severely reduced revenue from Florida’s Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA) Program.

In September 2007 the Foundation released the results of an in-depth study titled, “The Quest for the Best: Attorney Recruitment and Retention Challenges for Florida Civil Legal Aid.” Eighty-eight percent of the state’s legal aid attorneys participated in the study through Web-based surveys, personal and telephone interviews and focus groups. The study found that the median starting salary for a licensed attorney in a Florida legal aid program was $38,500 and that staff attorneys do not reach a median salary of $50,000 until nine years after law school graduation.

Common measures of a middle class lifestyle, such as home ownership, proved beyond the reach of legal aid attorneys in spite of their highly specialized and marketable skills. The study also found that “financial pressure due to low salary” was the number one reason former legal aid attorneys left their jobs. In accordance with the recommendations of the study, The Florida Bar Foundation developed a salary supplementation grant program to increase staff attorney starting salaries beginning Jan. 1, 2008 to a minimum of $43,500, and to a minimum of $46,000 by Jan. 1, 2010. It also established goals that attorneys with three years, six years and 10 years of experience would be earning a minimum of $50,000, $60,000 and $70,000 respectively by 2010.

To enable legal aid programs to implement these salary improvements, along with other professional development enhancements recommended by the study, the Foundation initiated a Staff Attorney Salary Supplementation Grant Program and made these grants available to Foundation general support grantees. These grants also provided some matching funds to enable legal aid programs to start or improve retirement benefit plans for all of their employees.