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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  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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