A Picture Worth 1,000 Words
Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words, and a graph that was a new feature of NALP's Jobs & JD's report for the Class of 2006 has received considerable attention from members of the press and legal industry bloggers. The graph (shown below) illustrates the distribution of salaries for members of the law school Class of 2006 and is a surprise to many because of its dramatic bimodal peaks. Despite all the publicity about large law firms and their race for talent, the fact is that most new graduates neither take jobs in big firms nor start at salaries that have now reached $160,000 at many large firms. For the Class of 2006, the vast majority of graduates who were employed as of February 15, 2007 (71% of those employed) started work in small firms of 50 or fewer lawyers, or in non-firm settings, such as government, public interest, or business. Just 20% took jobs in firms of more than 100 lawyers. The earnings reality for Class of 2006 graduates, therefore, is that the cluster of salaries of $135,000 and $145,000 is more than matched by the cluster of salaries in the $40,000-$50,000 range. For more information, see the press release on the Jobs & JD's report for the Class of 2006 or order Jobs & JD's and Starting Salaries through the Bookstore.
Source:Jobs & JD's, Class of 2006. For the purposes of the Jobs and JD's report, the curve was smoothed to more clearly illustrate the bimodal nature of the curve, and thus does not appear identical to the curve shown for the Class of 2006 in the January 2008 Bulletin column here. The curve presented in the January 2008 Bulletin article is also shown on a different scale for ease of comparison with previous years.
Note: The graph is based on 22,665 salaries. A few salaries above $200,000 are excluded for clarity. The first peak in this graph reflects salaries of both $40,000 and $50,000 (each about 11% of reported salaries). The second peak reflects salaries of $135,000 (10% of reported salaries) and $145,000 (7% of reported salaries).