Salary Trends — A 15-Year Overview

NALP Bulletin, July 2005 

The table provides a 15-year overview of law firm starting salaries, based on NALP’s annual Employment Report and Salary Survey (now published as Jobs & JD’s: Employment and Salaries of New Law Graduates). Median salaries at the largest firms of more than 100 lawyers have remained quite stable for the past five years, in contrast to the mid to late 1990s, when large law firm starting salaries saw dramatic increases.

The current stability now resembles another period of stability in the early 1990s. Median salaries at smaller firms have increased by 60% or less over the period, with the early 1990s again being a period of relative stability.

 

Median Starting Salaries by Firm Size — 1990-2004


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*

2003

80,000

45,000

55,000

65,000

80,000

95,000

125,000*

125,000*

2004

80,000

48,000

55,000

65,000

76,000

100,000

116,000

125,000*

% Change,
1990-2004

60%

60%

37%

44%

43%

67%

66%

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 & JD’s reports for the Classes of 1990-2004.

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