Lawyer Pay

Big Salaries Not in Big Picture


Don’t be fooled by tales of $160,000 starting pay for associates. Most new lawyers make about a fourth of that.

James Leipold, executive director of NALP, told the National Law Journal that most law grads who find jobs in private practice make between $40,000 and $45,000 the first year.

Lawyers who make $160,000 in starting pay are employed by firms with more than 500 attorneys, and that’s just a fraction of the graduates, he says.

The focus on big-firm salaries is creating unrealistic expectations, says Emily Spieler, dean of Northeastern University School of Law. Students “do not have an accurate perception of the job market,” she told the legal newspaper.

Student debt can make the financial picture even more gloomy for new grads. The average debt was $83,181 for those who attended private schools and $54,509 for public school grads.

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