Class of 2012 Salary Distribution Curve

September 2013

This information is being made available for prospective law school applicants and others interested in the starting salaries of new law school graduates. Want to learn more about the entry-level job market for recent law school graduates? See NALP's annual Jobs & JDs report.

<< Return to complete salary information for the Class of 2012

The two peaks and deep valley of NALP’s bimodal salary curves that describe the starting salaries of new law graduates are by now familiar to industry observers. Changes in the distribution of jobs continue to change the look of the curve. While the curve for the Class of 2012 still has two humps, the percentage of jobs under each peak has shifted again, as has the mean or average salary.

Since 2006 NALP has published a graphic illustration of the distribution of starting salaries for new law school graduates, a dramatic bimodal curve illustrating that salaries cluster at either side of the average, and that relatively few salaries are near the average. This year’s curve (below) continues this pattern. However, because of a rebound of jobs in firms of more than 500 lawyers for the Class of 2012 (see NALP’s press release on the Class of 2012 at, not only did the average salary for the Class of 2012 shift to the right, but also the bulk under the 2 peaks changed a bit. Jobs paying $160,000 accounted for about 16% of reported salaries, while jobs paying $40,000-65,000 — the left-hand peak — accounted for 51% of reported salaries, compared with 14% and 52%, respectively, for the Class of 2011. Nonetheless, just three years ago, for the Class of 2009, the respective percentages were 25% and 34%.

For a historical perspective, see the salary curves for the previous classes at, and also an August 2012 NALP Bulletin article, “Salaries for New Lawyers: How Did We Get Here,” that traces the origin of the bimodal curve.

Distribution of Reported Full-Time Salaries — Class of 2012

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