Startup costs of a first year lawyer


You went to law school and hurdled the bar exam. While waiting for your bar results, you received a job offer from a top law firm and are to start working there immediately as a junior associate. What costs should you prepare for?

Housing cost

The top law firms in the Philippines are centrally-located in the Makati and Bonifacio Global City area. If you want to avoid the long commute and the horrendous Manila traffic, you should find a place to live in the area where the law firm is located. Makati is a city with a high cost of living so expect a higher than average rent. In Makati, you can find studio condos which rent for around PhP 15,000.00 or USD 300.00 a month.

Costuming costs

Most major law firms have a strict dress code – corporate wear is standard. However, men and women seldom go the full blazer route due to the hot tropical climate. They wear suits when meeting with clients and when appearing in courts. Given the tropical heat, it is acceptable to forgo the coat when drafting pleadings inside the four corners of your office.

A nice blazer and pants or skirt set from a known fast fashion retailer will set you back about PhP 10,000.00 or USD 200.00. For men, a nice custom barong will cost about PhP 4,000.00 or USD 80.00.

Increased transportation costs

Costuming costs require lawyers to look professionally responsible. Concomitantly, lawyers must ride well. Thus, most law firms have an unwritten rule that their junior associates must not take the jeepney or the bus. This purportedly diminishes the prestige of the law firm. Personally I feel this is unwarranted* and have never observed this rule, especially in Makati where you can never get a cab at rush hour! The only time this rule may be warranted is if the law firm provides a car plan or some form of daily transport subsidy, which they do not. *Although rental car service is provided for out-of-town hearings.

Regulatory fees

Once you pass the bar, the regulatory fees must be paid. As a lawyer, you become a member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and must pay yearly membership dues (about PhP 1,100.00). You are also required to pay your yearly professional tax to the local government.

As lawyers we must undergo mandatory continuing legal education (“MCLE”) every 3 years. Usually the cost of MCLE (about PhP 4,500.00 or USD 90.00) is shouldered by law firms, sometimes it is not.

Calculate your startup net monthly salary

As you can see, being a first year lawyer requires a huge upfront investment. The key is sustainability – whether your startup first year lawyer salary would be enough to maintain these costs. The law firm’s job offer and quoted monthly salary is usually stated in gross amounts (or pre tax ). Thus, you should expect a smaller net take home pay once the deductibles have been subtracted therefrom. Nowadays it is easy to calculate your net take home pay by using the app, Sweldong Pinoy.

Once you determine your net take home pay, it will be easy for you to know the sustainability of your monthly startup cost as a first year associate.

Any other startup costs that I may have missed?

20 something lawyer

9 thoughts on “Startup costs of a first year lawyer

  1. unfortunately, the salary of a junior associate from small- medium-large law firms range anywhere between 25k/30k to 50k gross. slash back at least 20k for your accomodation and daily expenses, and it really doesn’t pay as much as we all expect. government work pays better.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the info Cris! it’s unfortunate that law firm salaries have stagnated. Are you a government lawyer as well? I agree,
      despite its perceived “glamour,” the private sector doesn’t really pay that well.


  2. Hi! I’m a new lawyer who is will soon work in Makati. May I know how much is the average and competitive basic pay as an associate in Makati law firm? thank you


    1. Hi Louise, I’m not aware how much the starting pay for junior law firm associates is now. hopefully the pay is higher now! Try to keep an open mind you might get a good offer. Then kindly email me to apprise me of the current starting pay! Hehe


  3. Gosh, is that really how much a full suit costs these days?

    I now work in government and we have a not-so-strict corporate attire, so I don’t feel the need to dress the part anymore.

    But you’re right, aside from the education and emotional investments to become a lawyer, there’s also the need to look and dress the part. But some take it too far no? Getting in debt for their costumes and to impress others. I wonder how long they can sustain that.


    1. Hi Jill! I totally enjoyed reading your site! you would be surprised but I have a few friends who are actually in credit card debt due to these “costuming costs”. The unheard hidden costs of being a lawyer 🙁


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