NALP Survey Captures Elements of Pandemic Shifts in Legal Profession

NALP Bulletin+
November 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a meaningful and measurable impact on the jobs and careers of NALP members working for employer organizations. NALP recently published the 2022 Survey of Legal Career Professionals in Employer Organizations, reporting on salaries and experience in the profession, among other topics, for these individuals.

This biennial report continues a long-standing NALP research initiative to learn about NALP members, as described in a previous article on the topic (see "Celebrating 50 Years: Assessing the Role of NALP in Researching Law Schools and Firms," NALP Bulletin, September 2020). As noted in that piece, this profession has evolved a great deal in the more than four decades that NALP has tracked it. However, the time periods covered by the two most recent surveys, 2020 and 2022, were arguably unlike any other in the previous 40-year period. While the report itself focuses on findings for 2022, this article will look at some comparisons with the prior report in 2020, keeping in mind that each report is a snapshot in time based on responses for that year, and not a longitudinal study on individuals over time. Note that the term "professional development" as used here includes individuals whose jobs involve alumni relations; diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives; career coaching; and lawyer engagement and integration.

Salaries have gone up:

  • The median salary for chiefs and directors as a whole was $205,000 as of April 2022, compared to $190,000 in 2020. For chiefs and directors of recruiting, the median is lower, at $199,000, as it was in 2020, when the median was $180,000. However, the region of the country makes a difference. For example, the median salary for chiefs/directors of recruiting in the Northeast was $275,000 in 2022 and $250,000 for chiefs/directors of professional development. The comparable figures in the Northeast for 2020 were $235,000 for chiefs/directors of recruiting and $225,000 chiefs/directors of professional development.

  • The median salary for managers overall stood at $135,000 in 2022, but was lower for managers of recruiting, at $130,000, and higher for managers of professional development, at $150,000. This compares with an overall median in 2020 of $124,000, with figures for managers of recruiting and managers of professional development at $120,000 and $132,000, respectively, in 2020. Geography makes a difference here as well. For example, among managers of recruiting, the median salary is highest in the West/Rocky Mountain region, at $147,000, followed by the Northeast, at $135,000. The respective figures in 2020 were $130,000 and $120,000. Among managers of professional development, the median is highest by far in the Northeast at $180,000, followed by about $153,000 in the West. In 2020, the median in the Northeast was $157,000; a figure for the West/Rocky Mountain region could not be calculated because of insufficient responses.

  • The median salary in 2022 for coordinators as a whole and for recruiting coordinators specifically was $77,000, compared with $72,000 for coordinators as a whole and $70,500 for recruiting coordinators in 2020. The median salary for professional development coordinators was $80,000, compared with $73,000 in 2020. Compared to directors and managers, salary medians for coordinators vary less based on demographics, as has been the case in the past. For example, medians by region for recruiting coordinators ranged from just between $75,000 and $79,000.

Current job tenure has gone down:

  • Much has been documented about the Great Resignation brought on by the pandemic. Can data collected on job tenure provide evidence for this among legal career professionals? Among all respondents to the 2022 survey, 44% had been in their current job for one year or less at the time of the survey, with an average of 3.8 years in the job and a median of 2 years. In 2020, the comparable figures were 37%, an average of 4.3 years and a median of 2 years. Is this evidence of the Great Resignation? Perhaps, but as Table 1 shows, job tenure as measured in these three ways has been declining since 2016. Moreover, we know that the legal careers profession has been growing, as departments dedicated to functions such as recruiting and professional development expand their staff. It therefore becomes hard to disentangle the role of general job growth and many new hires from the role of the Great Resignation as factors contributing to the decline.

  • We do know, based on data collected about bonuses and raises, that about 10% of respondents were not eligible for a bonus and/or a raise because of a job change during the April 2021-April 2022 period, and/or a departure from a previous employer before the time bonuses or raises were given.

  • In contrast to current job tenure, findings on years in the profession have been quite consistent over the same period. Roughly half of respondents had been in the field less than 10 years at the time of the survey, average tenure was about 10 years, and the median was 8-9 years.

Table 1. Job Tenure Over the Past Decade

Year % in current job
1 year or less
Average
Job Tenure
Median
Job Tenure
2012 19.4% 5.6 years 4.5 years
2014 19.0 5.7 3.0
2016 26.1 5.8 4.0
2018 31.6 4.6 2.0
2020 37.0 4.3 2.0
2022 44.6 3.8 2.0


A BA/BS is the most common educational attainment, but a JD is becoming more common among newer entrants to the field:

  • A Bachelor's degree remains the highest educational attainment for just over half of respondents — 53% in 2022, compared with 56% in 2020. One-quarter of respondents in 2022 reported having a JD degree, up a bit from 21% in 2020. Chiefs and directors are more likely to have a JD degree, almost half - 47%; coordinators are more likely to have a Bachelor's degree, about three-quarters. Comparable figures for 2020 were 49% of chiefs and directors with a JD and 72% of coordinators with a Bachelor's degree.

  • It remains the case that, in general, those who are newer to the field are more likely to have a JD degree. For example, among directors/chiefs who have been in the field for less than 13 years, two-thirds have a JD degree, compared with one-third among those who have been in the field for 20 years or more.


What about other duties?

  • Legal career professionals often have duties that fall into the "other" category. By far the most common response, chosen by one-third of respondents overall in 2022, was organizing social events other than for the summer program. A distant second was non-lawyer personnel hiring/supervision/evaluation, reported by about 19% of respondents. The rank ordering was the same in 2020, with 37% reporting organizing social events other than for the summer program, and about 16% reporting non-lawyer personnel hiring/supervision/evaluation. This is something of a standing pattern. For example, in 2012, the respective figures were 42% and almost 20%.

The full report on the 2022 Survey of Legal Career Professionals is available under Member Salary Surveys (member login required).

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