Lawyer Pay

Law Firm Associate Salaries 'in Stasis'; First-Year Median Is Still $115K, NALP Says

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The median salary for first-year associates working at law firms is $115,000, the same figure as last year, according to a law firm survey by the National Association for Law Placement.

NALP executive director James Leipold says in a press release that law firm salaries are showing little movement. “Following the recession, law firm associate salaries are in stasis,” he said.

NALP receives more salary reports from large than small firms. The median ranged from a low of $73,000 in firms of two-to-25 lawyers to $160,000 in firms of more than 700 lawyers. The report also found that firms pay bonuses for clerkships in amounts typically ranging from $10,000 to $25,000, depending on the type of court. The amount can be higher, particularly for prior U.S. Supreme Court clerks.

The press release has this breakdown on first-year median salaries:

• $73,000 in firms of two-to-25 lawyers.

• $86,000 in firms of 26-to-50 lawyers.

• $91,000 in firms of 51-to-100 lawyers.

• $110,000 in firms of 101-to-250 lawyers.

• $125,000 at firms of 251-to-500 lawyers.

• $120,000 in firms of 501-to-700 lawyers.

• $160,000 in firms of more than 700 lawyers.

The first-year salary figures are from survey responses from 440 law firms. A different NALP survey of 2010 law school graduates, which included more than 10,000 reported salaries, found their median law firm salary was $104,000.

Leipold explained the reason for the difference in an email to the ABA Journal. “Law firms essentially reported that they were paying associates the same thing that they were a year ago, which is no surprise,” he wrote. “The reason that the medians went down for the members of the class of 2010 is that there were simply fewer jobs obtained at the firms that paid the highest salaries. In other words, big firms were still paying $160,000 in the largest cities, so their report to us shows that their starting salary is unchanged, but they hired far fewer members of the class of 2010, who in turn obtained jobs with lower starting salaries, so the medians for the class decreased.”

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