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Median salary is $95K for new law grads working in law firms, NALP study shows

Posted Jun 19, 2014 9:00 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A boost in BigLaw hiring of newbie associates has boosted the median salary to $95,000 for new law grads working in law firms, according to data collected from law schools by the National Association for Law Placement.

The median last year was $90,000 for new grads in law firms, NALP says in a press release and article (PDF). Because of the increase in jobs at large firms, $160,000 starting pay now accounts for 31 percent of reported law firm salaries.

The median is still lower than the figure of $130,000 reported for new lawyers hired by law firms in the class of 2009. Just over half of law grads in the class of 2013 obtained jobs in private practice. BigLaw firms accounted for 20.6 percent of jobs taken in law firms.

Median pay for all class of 2013 law grads working full-time in jobs lasting at least a year was also higher, but not by much. The median was $62,467, compared with $61,245 for the class of 2012.

NALP also highlighted employment figures for the class of 2013, measured nine months after graduation. Only 64.4 percent had a job requiring bar passage, unchanged from 2012. The figure is the lowest percentage ever measured by NALP. The percentage falls to 59 percent when the group is restricted to those with full-time jobs requiring bar passage that last at least a year.

An additional 13.8 percent of graduates had jobs for which a JD is an advantage or even a requirement, but a law license is not required. It is the highest number since NALP began tracking the figure in 2001.

Another historic high is the percentage of grads employed in business—18.4 percent—including those in business jobs requiring bar passage or for which a JD was an advantage.

NALP executive director James Leipold commented on the findings in the NALP article. “In the best of times law school graduates have entered the labor force by taking many different kinds of jobs, not all of which can be described as actually practicing law or even law-related,” he said. “As the legal services market continues to change at a rapid pace following the dramatic downsizing during the recession, the variety and diversity of jobs that law grads take now is greater than ever.”

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