The NALP Salary Curve for the Class of 2011

July 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. The impact of the recession continues to change the look of the curve. While the curve for the Class of 2011 still has two humps, the numbers 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 the continued shift away from law firm jobs in general and from large firms in particular (see NALP’s press releases on the Class of 2011 at, not only has the average salary for the Class of 2011 shifted to the left, but also the bulk under the 2 peaks has changed. Jobs paying $160,000 accounted for just 14% of reported salaries, while jobs paying $40,000-65,000 — the left-hand peak — accounted for 52% of reported salaries. Just two 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 2011

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