Surprise: Despite the high starting salaries of the biggest and best New York law firms and the six-figure incomes of their top partners, a new survey shows that California is the place where young attorneys make the most money.

In fact, the salary survey published in the current issue of Juris Doctor magazine lists New York in fourth place, behind Los Angeles, Washington and Houston-Dallas/Fort Worth.

According to Steven Langer of Abbott, Langer & Associates of Park Forest, Ill., who did the survey for Juris Doctor, the highest paid young lawyer (under 45) in the country is a partner in a large Los Angeles firm who graduated from Stanford Law School more than 15 years ago and who specializes in either administrative or tax law.

Why Los Angeles and not New York or Washington? Langer said he isn't sure, except that Los Angeles lawyers charge a higher average hourly rate than lawyers in either New York or Washington.

Nonetheless, his finding is surprising because of the tremendous glut of lawyers on the West Coast and the higher starting salaries paid in New York and Washington. Although 10 percent of the nation lives in California, 20 percent of the starting lawyers practice tere.

Moreover, a survey published last year in another magazine, Student Lawyer, indicated that New York ($28,000) led in starfing salaries for lawyers followed closely by Washington and Houston ($24,000) with Los Angeles next ($20,500).

Langer, however, said his survey - based on responses from 6,000 subscribers to Juris Doctor - is representative of lawyers under 45, but not of all lawyers. Most Juris Doctor subscribers are young lawyers.

Overall, participants in the survey averaged more than $35,000 income last year. Partners in large firms did better ($54,000) than lawyers practicing along ($36,000) or lawyers working for businesses or government ($30,000).

According to the survey, lawyers in private practice in Los Angeles averaged $47,500 last year closely followed by $47,000 in Washington; $44,000 in Houston-Dallas/Fort Worth, and $42,500 in New York.

The survey also showed that partners in a law firm make more than twice the income ($54,500) of the young associated that work there ($26,000) and revealed what Langer called "a consistent income bias against women," except for recent law school graduates who made as such as their male classmates.

The question is, how many "rainmakers" - the top, highest paid partners in New York and Washington law firms who make things happen - answered the Juris Doctor survey. A Price Waterhouse survey showed that partners in New York's largest firms (more than 135 lawyers) averaged $161,000 while other sources said top Washington lawyers have salaries in the $200,000 to $250,000 range.

But they are the top of the pyramaid. Most lawyers, even in Washington and New York, don't make that much, and the survey seems to show that a fattening of the pyramid just below the top in Washington and New York leaves Los Angeles ahead nationally.

Meanwhile, Langer said the full two-volume survey, which costs $75, is "selling like mad" to law firms, corporation counsels, personnal dirctors, bar associations and law schools.

Surprise number two: Andrew J. Schwartman of the Modia Access Project was looking through comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission on a proposed rule when, he and behold, he noticed that two of them appeared almost identical.

One was filed on behalf of the Federal Communications Bar Associations, composed of lawyers who practice before the FCC; the other was filed on behalf of GTE Service Co., a subsidiary of General Telephone & Electronics Co. Both opposed the FCC proposal, which would bar private contacts between lawyers and the commission staff on pending cases.

"It is inconceivable that the comments were prepared independent of each other," Schwartzman wrote FCC Chairman Charles Ferris, "since they follow the same organization, utilize the same cities (legal citations) and quotations and contain entire passages which are identical word for word."

Schwartzman joined Charles R. Halpern and Douglas L. Parker of Georgetown Universary's Institute for Public Interest Representation in calling for an FCC investigation to see if the FCBA's comment was made in behalf of its members or behalf of clients of some of its members.

Schwartzman wrote Ferris that he was no objections to groups such as the FCBA taking positions on matters of public policy.

"However," he continued, "this activity should not be, as it has often been in the past, merely in furtherance of the narrow interests of particular clients or groups of clients."

Schwartzman said this incident differs from similar cases in the past "only in its clumainess and transparency."

The executive committee of the FCBA met to draft a letter explaining its position. Among other embrarrassments, Schwartzman and other public interest lawyers belong to the FCBA.

The long neck of the Law: Chief Justice Warren E. Burger didn't like the idea of a newborn giraffe at the National Zoo being named for him.His secretary called the zoo to vote the plan, so the giraffe was named for Michael Collins, the lonely astronaut who circled the moon during man's first landing.

Just in case: The Los Angeles firm of Boardsley, Hufsteadler & Kamble are thinking about opening a Washington office if U.S. Apeeals Court Judge Shirley Hufsteadler, is named to the U.S. Supreme Court.

George Saunders, an expert witness in a number of lawsuits arising from air crashes, left written instructions that Dallas attorney Windle Turley should be called if he died in a crash himself.

It turned out Saunders was a victim of last Monday's collision over San Diego and by Thursday Turley - following Saunders' wished - filed a $2 million suit.Turley said that Saunders and a number of other experts in air crashes had left similar requests a few months ago.

Shorttakes: Steven A. Bookshester, former legislative counsel to Rep. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) has joined the firm of Kass, Skalet & Frosh . . . A committee of judges, lawyers and representatives of the news media will study public attitudes on allowing cameras and recorders in Virginia courts . . . Joel Henning, a lawyer and staff member for the American Bar Association, has written "Holistic Running: Beyond the Threshold of Fitness," which is published by Atheneum.