Starting Associate Salaries Have Flattened

Kendall Coffey has discussed the challenges facing new attorneys entering the workforce. Those challenges continue to mount in the face of the current economic climate. In a recent article in Bloomberg, Ellen Rosen references a National Association of Law Placement survey that illustrates the flattening of Associate salaries since the recession in tandem with geographic cost-of-living.

Rosen states:

“The highest starting salaries at the largest U.S. firms with more than 700 lawyers remain unchanged at $160,000, according to the National Association of Law Placement’s 2014 survey of associate compensation.
The figure can be misleading, since the placement organization found that only 27 percent of offices responding to the survey paid their new associates that amount. In contrast, in 2009, NALP found that almost two-thirds of large law firms reported $160,000 as a starting salary.
The drop in percentage doesn’t reflect a decline in compensation. The disparity stems from income differences in regional offices of larger firms. Associates in regional offices often earn less than their counterparts in larger, more expensive cities.
“In the simplest terms, it is fair to say that law firm starting salaries are flat,” James Leipold, NALP’s executive director, said in a statement. “The fact that the incidence of $160,000 as the starting salary at the largest law firms is less than it was before the recession is really more a reflection of the changing contours of the large firm market.”
Because of many law firm combinations, the legal market is more heterogeneous than it was in 2009, and the apparent drop in starting salaries results from regional offices of large firms, which often pay young associates less.
The survey found “that the overall national median first-year salary at firms of all sizes was $125,000, unchanged since 2012. Medians ranged from $68,000 in firms of 2-25 lawyers to $160,000 in firms of 251-500. In larger firms of 501-700 the median was $125,000, as it has been since 2012. In the largest firms of 701+ lawyers the median was $135,000, after standing at $160,000 in all but one of the prior six years.”

Go here to read the Bloomberg article.

Go here learn more about the NALP.