What is an of Counsel Attorney?

This article clarifies the role of “of counsel” attorneys, explaining who they are and their contribution to the legal field.

Discover the role and significance of “of counsel” attorneys in the legal field.

Uncover what defines them and their impact in this insightful exploration.

An Image of an Of Counsel Attorney
What is an Of Counsel Attorney? Photo Source (Freepik)

What and Who Determines an Of Counsel Attorney

Of counsel refers to a type of attorney in law firms, not serving as an associate or partner.

It can denote various roles, such as part-time practitioners, retired partners, or those on track to partnership.

These attorneys may work on specific cases or provide occasional consultation, bridging the gap between partners and associates.

It’s a legitimate term for lawyers with specific expertise or in transitional career phases within the legal field.

An Example of an Of Counsel Attorney

“Of counsel” attorneys are highly skilled individuals in a law firm, often specializing in less profitable areas like trusts and estates.

Clients may need their expertise occasionally but aren’t willing to pay a lot.

To retain these clients and manage costs at partner levels, law firms designate these attorneys as “of counsel,” enabling them to earn more than associates but less than partners.

It provides job security and a less demanding schedule.

Attorneys returning from government, older attorneys downsizing, and parents seeking work-life balance often choose this role.

What’s The Compensation for Of Counsel Attorneys?

Amid discussions about associate salaries, the earnings of counsel attorneys are often overlooked.

Despite not being fully integrated into the law firm structure, these attorneys are well-compensated, with prestigious American firms paying around $335,000.

This pay falls between high-level associates and partners.

The Downside of an Of Counsel Position

Being of counsel instead of a partner has drawbacks, notably lower pay compared to partners.

Of counsel attorneys often earn a salary similar to high-level associates rather than the higher profits of partners.

While being a partner brings prestige, many find the steady income and job security of an of counsel position appealing, balancing the benefits of associate life with partnership security.

The Upside of an Of Counsel Position

Of counsel attorneys typically enjoy better work-life balance with fewer demanding hours than associates.

Their specialization allows focused work in a chosen practice area, avoiding the juggling of diverse legal cases.

While they may earn less than partners, the luxury of concentrating on their preferred practice area provides a predictable and less hectic daily routine.


In some cases, of counsel attorneys are treated as outsiders within a law firm.

They’re not complete strangers, but they’re not fully embraced into the firm’s family.

Some may view them as temporary, here for a specific duration and gone once it ends.

However, this shouldn’t diminish their value.

Depending on their expertise and client base, Of counsel attorneys can be valuable assets to any law firm, regardless of its size or prestige.

Further Reading!