Salary Trends — A 13-Year Overview

NALP Bulletin, September 2003

The table below provides a 13-year overview of law firm starting salaries, based on NALP's annual Employment Report and Salary Survey (now published as Jobs & J.D.'s: Employment and Salaries of New Law Graduates). Median salaries at the largest firms of more than 100 attorneys have remained stable for the past few years, in contrast to the mid to late 1990s, when large law firm starting salaries saw dramatic increases. What is being seen now resembles another period of stability ten years ago. Median salaries at smaller firms have increased by 50% or less over the period, but have increased somewhat in recent years.

Median Starting Salaries by Firm Size — 1990-2002

Year FIRM SIZE (Number of Attorneys)
All Sizes 2-10 11-25 26-50 51-100 101-250 251-500 501+
1990 $50,000 $30,000 $40,000 $45,000 $53,000 $60,000 $70,000 $70,000
1991 50,000 30,000 40,000 48,000 55,000 61,000 70,000 70,000
1992 47,500 30,000 40,000 48,000 54,000 60,000 70,000 70,000
1993 48,000 30,000 40,000 48,000 54,000 61,750 70,000 70,000
1994 50,000 32,000 40,000 48,000 55,000 60,080 70,000 70,000
1995 50,000 32,500 40,000 48,000 55,000 62,000 72,000 72,000
1996 50,000 34,000 40,000 49,000 55,000 62,000 74,000 77,000
1997 55,000 35,000 42,000 50,000 58,000 67,000 79,000 80,000
1998 60,000 37,000 43,500 52,000 62,000 72,000 85,000 90,000
1999 70,000 40,000 46,000 55,000 70,000 80,000 92,000 97,000
2000 80,000 40,000 50,000 60,000 76,000 99,500 125,000* 125,000*
2001 90,000 43,000 52,000 62,000 80,000 100,000 125,000* 125,000*
2002 90,000 45,000 52,500 65,000 80,000 100,000 125,000* 125,000*
% Change,
1990-2002
80% 50% 31% 44% 51% 67% 79% 79%

* The median for these categories is technically $125,000 based on a ranking of all reported salaries. However, because about half of the reported salaries were $125,000, the concept of a modal, or prevailing, salary is more useful.

Source: Employment Report & Salary Survey reports/Jobs & J.D.'s reports for the Classes of 1990-2002.

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