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Median first-year associate salaries drop to $145,000

NALP survey finds that median pay for Big Law’s first years has fallen to 2007 levels

This summer, we reported that starting salaries for recent law school graduates were on the decline. Now, the NALP, the Association for Legal Career Professionals has more bad news: The median salary for first-year associates at large law firms is $145,000, a figure that was last seen in 2007.

The NALP reports in its 2012 Associate Salary Survey that in 2009, as much as two-thirds of Big Law’s first-year associates were earning $160,000 a year. But since then, the figures have dropped. Nationwide, in firms with more than 700 lawyers, 46 percent said they were paying first-year associates salaries of $160,000, compared with 54 percent in 2011 and 65 percent in 2009.

Some first years in major markets are still seeing higher salaries. In Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., for instance, about two-thirds of law firms with more than 700 lawyers are paying their first-year associates $160,000 a year. But the figure is down from 90 percent of law firms that reported doing so in 2009.

Meanwhile, in New York, the $160,000 starting salary still reigns, with 87 percent of law firms with more than 701 lawyers paying that amount and 75 percent of law firms with more than 251 lawyers paying that amount.

Despite the lower first-year salaries among Big Law firms, the NALP’s report found that the overall median first-year salary at law firms of all sizes was $125,000, up from $115,000 last year.

Unfortunately, law school students and graduates shouldn’t anticipate salaries to rise anytime soon. “We would not expect to see much widespread upward movement in associate salaries until the demand for legal services in North America picks up considerably from where we are today,” NALP Executive Director James Leipold said in a press release.

Read more InsideCounsel stories about compensation and jobs in the legal field:

Median starting salaries plummet

2011 law school grads face worst job market in 18 years

Law school debt estimates exceed $200,000 for class of 2015

Judge tosses suit against New York Law School for misleading jobs data

2012 in-house compensation report

Ashley Post

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