Lawyer Pay

Which Law Schools’ Grads Make $160K Median Pay? None, According to Website’s Data


Updated: The statistics from the nation’s top law schools paint a rosy pay picture for their new graduates.

All of the schools that earned the top 15 spots from U.S. News & World Report say their new grads earn a median salary in the private sector of $160,000, according to the Forbes blog Jock Rich. But a website that tracks pay of its users found much lower salaries.

The Payscale website pulled statistics on 28,000 grads in their database who had attended 98 popular law schools, were working in the private sector and had less than five years of experience. Based on the graduates’ reports, none of the schools produced new lawyers who earned median salaries of $160,000, the Forbes blog says. And only three schools had grads earning more than $125,000 in median pay.

Payscale found the law schools with top-paid recent grads in the private sector are:

1) Columbia, with median pay of $157,000.

2) University of Virginia, with median pay of $137,000.

3) Harvard, with median pay of $135,000.

4) Stanford, with median pay of $125,000.

5) New York University, with median pay of $119,000.

Constitutional Daily looked at the Payscale data and learned that the sample size is smaller than originally reported. Although the website looked at salaries of 28,000 law school grads, only 8,500 of them had less than five years of experience. “So, we’re looking at about 87 students on average for each school,” the blog says. It speculates that the Payscale salary numbers may be lower because of the high attrition rate in BigLaw.

Stanford later defended the employment data supplied to U.S. News, telling Forbes that it is “100 percent verified.”

NALP reported last fall that the median first-year base salary for law firm associates is $115,000, but starting pay of $160,000 is still prevalent in many large law firms in big cities. NALP’s median pay figure for law firms may skew high, though, because more large than small firms disclose their salaries.

Updated on March 30 to include information on sample size.

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