NALP finds recent law grads’ starting salaries down

July 13, 2012
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As if new law school graduates don’t have enough negative news coming at them, NALP – The Association for Legal Career Professionals – just released findings on the starting salaries of the classes of 2009-2011. Here’s more bad news: the salaries have been decreasing.

According to the NALP Employment Report and Salary Survey for the class of 2011, those graduates are making anywhere from 15 to 35 percent less than their counterparts from 2009, depending on what figure you look at.

The average firm salary has dropped 15 percent from $115,524 to $97,827 over the last three years. The median firm salary drop is more startling – from $130,000 for 2009 grads to $85,000 for the 2011 class.

The national average salary has decreased from nearly $93,500 for 2009 grads to a little more than $78,600 for 2011 grads. The median salary went from $72,000 to $60,000.

"This drop in starting salaries, while expected, is surprising in its scope," according to NALP's Executive Director James Leipold. "Nearly all of the drop can be attributed to the continued erosion of private practice opportunities at the largest law firms."

Leipold explained that the drop in salaries isn’t because legal employers are paying new graduates less than in the past. It may be the case in some instances, but NALP believes the decrease is due to graduates finding fewer jobs with the highest-paying large law firms. More graduates have found jobs with lower-paying small law firms.

Nearly 60 percent of law firm jobs taken by 2011 grads were in firms of 50 or fewer. Back in 2009, only 46 percent of graduates took jobs in small-sized firms.


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