The decline and fall of the bar
Since 2008 partner earnings at firms of all sizes have decreased 9 percent in constant dollars, according to federal tax filings. Solo practitioners have been struggling for much longer. Since 1988 earnings for standalone attorneys, of which there are about 354,000 nationally, have declined 31 percent. The legal industry has shed more than 50,000 jobs in the past eight years. The decline began decades ago. Solo practitioners began floundering in the late 1980s. Their average income, adjusted for inflation, was $71,000 in 1988; it was $49,000 in 2012.