Private Sector Salaries

How Much Do Law Firms Pay Associates? A Look Back at 20 Years of Findings from the NALP Associate Salary Survey (NALP Bulletin, October 2014) — Over the past 20 years law firms of all sizes have increased their first-year salaries, but the percentage increase at the largest firms is double that of the smallest firms

Associate Salaries Bobble But Remain Essentially Flat (September 18, 2013 Press Release) — Starting associate salaries at large law firms have remained essentially flat since 2007, despite some erosion of the prevalence of $160,000 as the norm. New research from NALP reveals that first-year associate salaries of $160,000 are still widespread at large law firms of more than 700 lawyers — especially in large markets.

Salaries for New Lawyers: An Update on Where We Are and How We Got Here  (NALP Bulletin, August 2012)  — Starting with the Class of 2006, one of the ways NALP has documented salary information for law school graduating classes is with a picture — a picture which shows very clearly that the salary distribution for law graduates has two distinct peaks, one in the $40,000 to $65,000 range, and one reflecting the big-law salary (or salaries) typical for that year. The full range generally spans from less than $20,000 to over $200,000. Although such a range of salaries is nothing new, the doubled-peaked characteristic was first apparent with the Class of 2000, with the evolution of the double-peaked curve documented in the January 2008 NALP Bulletin. This column reviews that earlier work and updates it to the Class of 2011.

Median Private Practice Starting Salaries for the Class of 2011 Plunge as Private Practice Jobs Continue to Erode (July 12, 2012 Press Release) — The median starting salary for new law school graduates from the Class of 2011 fell 5% from that for 2010 and has fallen nearly 17% just since 2009. The mean salary fell 6.5% compared with 2010, and since 2009 the mean has plunged almost 16%.

How Much Do Law Firms Pay New Associates? A 16-Year RetrospectiveNALP Bulletin, October 2011 — Since the mid-1990s law firms of all sizes have increased their first-year associate salaries, but the percentage increase at the largest firms is double that of the smallest firms, despite the fact that some, but by no means all, large firms in some markets backed off from starting associates at $160,000.

Starting Salaries — Class of 2010 — Information on the starting salaries of segments of the Class of 2010.

Law Firm Associate Salaries Changed Little from Last Year (Press Release, September 8, 2011) — Recent research from NALP reveals that associate salaries were largely flat in 2011 compared with 2010, with the $160,000 salary for first-year associates still prevailing at large firms in a number of markets.

Starting Salaries Re-Examined: A Critical Look at Averages (NALP Bulletin, October 2010) — Salaries earned by new law school graduates have been well-known and documented for many years. Reported salaries, however, are not the whole picture, and so with the Class of 2009 NALP introduced the concept of an adjusted salary mean.

Some Associate Salaries Retreat from Their High But Remain Far Ahead of Salaries for Public Service Attorneys (September 9, 2010 Press Release) — Recent research from NALP reveals that associate salaries at law firms were largely flat between 2009 and 2010, although median salaries in some markets fell back. During this same period, salaries for lawyers working in the public interest have also been largely flat, and the gap between private sector and public interest lawyer salaries remains as large as ever.

Market for Law Graduates Changes with Recession: Class of 2009 Faced New Challenges (July 22, 2010 Press Release) — The national median salary for the Class of 2009, based on those working full-time and reporting a salary, was $72,000, unchanged from that for the Class of 2008, and the national mean was $93,454. However, because some large law firm salaries cluster in the $160,000 range while many other salaries cluster in the $40,000–$65,000 range, relatively few salaries were actually near the median or mean, as the Jobs & JDs report details. The national median salary at law firms based on those reporting a salary was $130,000, compared with $125,000 the prior year, and the national mean at law firms was $115,254.

How Much Do Law Firms Pay New Associates? A 14-Year Retrospective as Reported by Firms (NALP Bulletin, September 2009) — In the last 14 years, law firms of all sizes have increased their first-year salaries, with salaries more than doubling in the largest firms.

What Do New Lawyers Earn? A 15-Year Retrospective 1994-2008 (NALP Bulletin, August 2009) — Two findings are noteworthy. First, during this time period, the overall median law firm starting salary has more than doubled, from $50,000 to $125,000. This reflects rising salaries in general, especially at large firms, and an overall increase in the share of jobs taken in larger firms, where salary coverage is more complete. Second, even though salary coverage is more complete for jobs at large firms, comparisons between firm sizes are still valid and it is the case that, in percentage terms, salaries have increased most at the largest firms, more than doubling over the time period.

Salaries at Largest Firms Peak in 2009 (July 13, 2009 Press Release) — NALP has just released its 2009 Associate Salary Survey. With salary information collected as of April 1, 2009, this year’s report reflects what is likely to be the apogee of large firm salaries for the foreseeable future, and represents the culmination of increases since 2006. The overall median starting salary was $130,000, and ranged from $70,000 in firms of 2-25 lawyers to $135,000 in firms of 501-1,000 lawyers, and $160,000 in firms of more than 1,000 lawyers.

Salaries for New Lawyers: How Did We Get Here? (NALP Bulletin, January 2008) — The range of salaries earned by new law school graduates has been well known and documented for many years. Even as students and the media have tended to focus on the high end of the scale, career services offices have seen and conveyed the broader picture. NALP's annual graduate employment survey documents this salary picture in many ways each year.

How Much Do Law Firms Pay New Associates? A 12-Year Retrospective as Reported by Firms (NALP Bulletin, October 2007) — It is evident that, in the last 12 years, law firms of all sizes have increased their first-year salaries, with salaries nearly doubling in the largest firms. In contrast, salaries in other sectors have increased, but at nowhere near a rate to match salary increases in law firms.

Salaries at Largest Firms Continue to Rise Rapidly (September 14, 2007 Press Release) — According to the 2007 Associate Salary Survey just released by NALP, the median, and in fact prevailing, first-year associate salary at firms of 501+ lawyers rose to $145,000 as of April 1, 2007, an increase of $10,000 in just one year. The median starting salary for firms of all sizes was $113,000 — up modestly from the 2006 median of $105,000, and driven mostly by growth at the high end of the scale.

A Picture Worth 1,000 Words (Jobs & JD's — Class of 2006) — For another perspective on salaries of the Class of 2006, see A Picture Worth 1,000 Words, which features the bimodal distribution salary graph.

What Do New Lawyers Earn? A 15-Year Retrospective as Reported by Law School Graduates (NALP Bulletin, September 2007) — This article provides a 15-year overview of law firm starting salaries based on NALP's annual graduate employment survey (now published as Jobs & JD's: Employment and Salaries of New Law Graduates).

Salaries Up at Largest Firms for First Time Since 2000 (August 1, 2006 Press Release) — According to the 2006 Associate Salary Survey just released by NALP, the median, and in fact prevailing, first-year associate salary at firms of 501+ lawyers rose to $135,000 this year. This represents an increase of $10,000 over the median figure for the previous five years — a figure that was steady at $125,000 from 2000 through 2005. At small firms of 25 or fewer lawyers, the median was unchanged at $67,000. The median starting salary for firms of all sizes was $105,000 — which compares to a 2005 median of $100,000. 2005 Associate Salary Survey

Entry-Level Lawyer Salaries Remarkably Stable (August 8, 2005 Press Release) — The median salary for first-year associates ranged from $67,500 in firms of 2-25 attorneys to $125,000 in firms of more than 500 lawyers, with a first-year median for all participating firms of $100,000. A comparison with figures reported for the prior five years reveals that first-year salaries have remained stable in firms of 251 or more lawyers during this period, with a median of about $110,000. This is in sharp contrast to a 30% increase in the median from April 1999 to April 2000.

Salary Trends — A 15-Year Overview (NALP Bulletin, July 2005) — Median salaries at the largest firms have remained quite stable for the last five years, in contrast to the mid to late 1990s. Starting Salaries: What New Law Graduates Earn (available in Bookstore)

Entry-Level Associate Salaries Continue to Remain Stable in Large Firms (August 31, 2004 Press Release) — NALP's 10th annual comprehensive survey of associate compensation shows that the median salary for first-year associates ranged from $65,000 in firms of 2-25 attorneys to $120,000 in firms of 500 attorneys or more, with a first-year median for all participating firms of $95,000. (Table: Median Base Salaries as of April 1, 2004.)

Salary Trends — A 13-Year Overview (NALP Bulletin, September 2003) — 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.

Entry-Level Associate Salaries Again Remain Stable in Large Firms (August 8, 2003 Press Release) — NALP's 9th annual comprehensive survey of associate compensation shows that the median salary for first-year associates ranged from $59,500 in firms of 2-25 attorneys to $113,000 in firms of 500 attorneys or more, with a first-year median for all participating firms of $93,190. (Table: Median Base Salaries as of April 1, 2003.)

Changes in Law Firm Salaries from 2000 to 2001 (NALP Bulletin, July 2002) — Data from the Class of 2001 reveal that the percentage of law firm jobs paying salaries in excess of $95,000 was 46%, compared with 39% for the Class of 2000, and that the overall median increased from $80,000 to $90,000. Continuing increases in law firm salaries in recent years certainly contributed to this rise, as did a continuing increase in the share of jobs taken in large firms.

Entry-Level Associate Salaries Remain Stable in Large Firms (August 19, 2002 Press Release) — NALP's 8th annual comprehensive survey of associate compensation shows that the median salary for first-year associates ranged from $53,500 in firms of 2-25 attorneys to $118,000 in firms of 500 attorneys or more, with a first-year median for all participating firms of $90,000. (Table: Median Base Salaries as of April 1, 2002.)

Findings from NALP's Associate Salary Survey — A Historical Perspective 1996-2001 (NALP Bulletin, September 2001) — Changes in how law firms determine associates' eligibility for bonuses and, of course, in starting salaries are evident based on NALP's Associate Salary Survey reports from 1996 through 2001. The magnitude of salary increases over the past five years is also evident, with an increase of nearly 60% in the largest firms.

Entry-Level Associate Salaries Remain Stable in Large Firms (August 24, 2001 Press Release) — NALP's 7th annual comprehensive survey of associate compensation shows that the median salary for first-year associates ranged from $60,000 in firms of 2-25 attorneys to $115,000 in firms of 500 attorneys or more, with a first-year median for all participating firms of $95,000. (Table: Median Base Salaries as of April 1, 2001.)

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