Survey to learn what lawyers earn

 Survey starts May 1

By Steve Thorpe
Legal News

The State Bar of Michigan wants to learn what you earn. If you're an attorney in the state, a survey that begins May 1 will ask you to help provide data.

“For more than 30 years the State Bar of Michigan has conducted the Economics of Law Practice Survey every three years. It’s a predictable cycle,” says SBM Director of Research and Development Anne Vrooman. “The main use of the survey is as a primary reference in trial courts in helping to determine attorney fees.”

The latest survey will be conducted online at beginning May 1 and SBM asks every member to participate. It takes about five minutes to complete.

The Michigan Supreme Court, in a decision in a case called Smith v. Khouri, said that the survey should serve as the primary resource for courts to use when determining attorney fees.

The survey has evolved over the years and the information it provides has become more focused.

“What we have done — and it's the second time we've done it — is create two surveys,” Voorman says. “If you're in private practice, you'll be asked questions around more than 50 named areas of practice. If you're not in private practice, you're taken to an area that asks questions more relevant to those occupations. We really made the survey a lot more relevant to all lawyers.”

Although the link will appear on the State Bar's website, the survey will be conducted by an independent third-party vendor and the State Bar will not have access to the financial information of those who respond. Attorneys will not be asked to provide a P-number or any other identifying information and results will be reported in the aggregate only.

“We comply with what are called the Safe Harbor privacy principles of protecting data” says Vrooman. “We're very careful about ensuring that there isn't identifiable disclosure.” 

The survey begins Thursday, May 1, and Vrooman hopes to have it wrapped up quickly. 

“We hope the survey will take about three weeks, but it will depend on the response,” she says. “We try to quickly turn around the billing rate piece by county and field of practice. That's what gets used most frequently, pretty much daily, in courts. If we can close out the survey by the end of May, we should have that piece out by mid-July.”

To incentivize the process, participants will be eligible to enter a drawing for prizes, including an iPad, two $250 gift cards, and two $150 donations to the Access to Justice Fund in the name of the prize winners. 

For additional information about the survey, visit the State Bar website at or call Vrooman at 517-346-6410.