NALP Employer Survey Takes on a New Look

NALP Bulletin, December 2008

Research designed to find out about legal career professionals, whether on the school or employer side, has been around nearly as long as NALP. During this time, the basic purpose of the research has not changed: to measure the salaries, education, and experience of these individuals. As the profession changes and matures, however, the survey itself must evolve over time.

In a simpler time, analyses of individuals on the employer side grouped respondents to reflect the primary and secondary person in the office/department (typically the recruiting department), regardless of specific job titles. As the kinds of jobs and the size of departments increased, however, analyses were expanded in 2004 and 2006 to include those based on job functions and responsibilities, differentiating professional development and recruiting, and directors, managers, and coordinators. The survey itself, however, did not change a great deal.

Updated Survey Instrument

But in 2008, the survey did change, thanks to the efforts of a work group of NALP's Lawyer Professional Development Section. This work group, headed by Kelly Mixon of Fish & Richardson, was charged with revising the biennial survey of legal career professionals to be more broadly applicable to the profession as it has evolved, to collect better information, and in the end result in a more useful NALP research report. Other members of the work group were Kay Nash of Wiley Rein and Amy Hancock of Andrews Kurth. This was not an easy assignment, given the extreme variations in how legal employers structure and staff their recruiting, professional development, and other lawyer personnel functions.

Number of Responses Doubles

In the end, however, not only was the group, in consultation with NALP staff, successful in this charge, it also worked very hard to encourage widespread survey participation among NALP members and others, particularly those working in professional development. The fact that over 600 responses were received to a survey that was distributed at what we all know is a very busy time — late August — is a testimonial to the work group's efforts. Previous surveys had been lucky to muster 300 responses. Just over half of responses were from individuals who identified recruiting as their primary area of responsibility. However, many responses, about 20% each, came from individuals working in professional development and from individuals who do some of both.

Key Findings

A summary of key findings is shown in the table below. As has been the case before, the median salary is highest among directors of professional development. Most also have a JD. Looking at all directors, eight to ten years in the legal careers profession is typical.

The full report provides more details on these topics and more and is available free to members (login required) on the Member Salary Surveys page.

Preliminary Results from NALP 2008 Survey of Legal Career Professionals in Law Firms and Employer Organizations — By Area of Responsibility and Title

  Median Salary Median Number of Years in Field % with a JD
Directors $120,000 10.0 27.5%
Managers 85,500 6.0 22.3
Coordinators/administrators 60,000 3.5 6.5
Assistants 44,000 1.5 0.0
Professional Development
Directors 197,500 8.0 70.2
Managers 105,000 5.0 54.7
Coordinators/administrators 62,500 4.0 24.0
Recruiting and Professional Development
Directors 127,000 8.0 52.7
Managers 104,000 8.3 30.3
Coordinators/administrators 59,000 6.0 8.3
Assistants 42,000 1.5 9.1

Note: Title designations are generic, grouping individuals into one of four major categories. Specific titles vary — for example, Director of Legal Recruiting, Director of Attorney Recruiting, etc. Survey respondents were asked to self-identify as to what they consider their main area of responsibility. 

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