Starting Salaries: Information for Prospective Law School Applicants

September 2021

Want to learn more about the entry-level job market for recent law school graduates? See NALP's annual Jobs & JDs report.

This information is being made available for prospective law school applicants and others interested in the starting salaries of new law school graduates.

What do new law school graduates earn?

Starting salaries for new lawyers vary tremendously. The median salary for Class of 2020 graduates with a full-time job lasting at least one year and reporting a salary was $75,000; while the mean, or average salary, was $102,858. For jobs in private practice, the overall median salary was considerably higher, $130,000, and the average was $129,309. However, in smaller firms, which account for about half of the jobs taken in law firms, salaries of $60,000-85,000 were typical. Likewise, public service jobs — those in government, public interest organizations, and as judicial clerks — continue to offer relatively low starting salaries, with medians of $64,000, $55,000, and $60,000, respectively for the Class of 2020.

The prevalence of high salaries in large firms, in concert with generally lower salaries among other employers, continues to result in a salary distribution with two sets of peaks, as shown in the Class of 2020 salary distribution curve: one at $190,000, and one in the $45,000 to $75,000 range. The nature of this distribution means that most jobs paid neither the median amount of $75,000 nor the most common big law firm salary of $190,000. Although salaries of more than $100,000 accounted for more than one-third (35.5%) of salaries reported, over half (52.1%) of reported salaries were $75,000 or less. Outside of private practice, and to a lesser extent business and industry, most salaries were $75,000 or less.


Salary Distribution Curve — Class of 2020

Full-Time Salaries for Jobs Lasting More Than One Year, by Employer or Job Type — Class of 2020

Employer Types with Average Salary for Class of 2020 (pie charts)

Trends in Median Reported Salaries — Class of 2020

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