Lawyer Pay

Law School Secret: Bad Job Market

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The job market is tough for many recent law grads, who are pointing their fingers at law schools for failing to warn them about their dim prospects.

Top pay for new associates at the big law firms is $160,000, but most beginning lawyers make far less at the same time they are paying off tuition loans as high as $100,000 or more, the Wall Street Journal reports (sub. req.). Some newly minted lawyers are taking temporary attorney jobs that pay only $20 an hour.

Law professor Richard Sander of the University of California at Los Angeles told the newspaper that incoming law students are “mesmerized by what’s happening in big firms, but clueless about what’s going on in the bottom half of the profession.”

Critics argue that law school job surveys are misleading. Tulane University, for example, found in a survey that its graduates entering the job market in 2005 took home median pay of $135,000. But the number is based only on the 24 percent of its grads who completed the survey—likely to be the top students, Tulane says.

Tulane’s latest survey shows average new pay for its grads to be of $96,356, but the school’s Web site does not reveal what percentage filled out the questionnaire.

Salaries are depressed because of a big influx of lawyers into a slowly growing legal market, which is expanding less than half as fast as the general economy. Almost 44,000 students graduated from law schools in 2005-06, an increase of nearly 6,000 since 2001-02.

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