NALP Bulletin, August 2009
The table below 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). The figures in this table thus reflect actual salaries reported by law school graduates obtaining jobs in private practice; however, because this information is collected as of the February 15th following graduation, it is current through the Class of 2008. A future companion piece to this article will report on salaries from the employer perspective as reported in NALP's annual Associate Salary Survey.
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. The most recent run-up at large firms came after a period of stability from 2000-2005, which itself mirrored a period of stability of the early 1990s when large firm salaries stood at $70,000. Salaries at smaller firms have increased but at a much slower though also relatively consistent pace of a few thousand dollars per year.
Median Starting Salaries by Firm Size — 1994-2008
|Year||FIRM SIZE (Number of Attorneys)|
* The median for these categories is as shown. However, because so many
salaries were reported at this level, 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 1994-2008.