Lawyer Pay

How to create opportunity for newbie lawyers? Cut their BigLaw salaries, law prof says

Brooklyn law professor Lawrence Solan outlines one reason for the so-called crisis in legal education: Large law firms are hiring fewer new associates, creating fewer training opportunities for law grads and declining interest in law school.

Law schools are responding with clinics and externships designed to train students in the practical aspects of lawyering, Solan writes at the Huffington Post. But Solan thinks BigLaw could do its part—by slashing salaries for new associates.

“Much of what is driving the diminution in opportunities for law school graduates at elite law firms is the fact that business clients have become less willing to pay high hourly rates for teams of novices,” Solan writes. “Instead, clients have insisted on far more efficient service, including the outsourcing of discovery and the implementation of computer algorithms to reduce costs. …

“This is a serious matter, because the combination of legal research, due diligence, discovery and, for that matter, just observing, has for most of the last century provided inexperienced lawyers with the training to become the next generation of sophisticated practitioners.”

Law firms could respond by paying associates less in their early years and giving substantial raises as the lawyers’ value increases. How much less? Solan says by way of example that large firms could pay $75,000, $125,000 and $175,000 for associates’ first three years, respectively.

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