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How those law degrees treating you?

Court_Gestures_300x100_I’ve got good news and bad news, folks.

Let’s start with the bad. That way we have nowhere to go but up.

According to a survey by the National Association for Law Placement — the results of which were released last week — those recent law school grads who get the coveted big law jobs aren’t making as much as they did a few years ago. The median salary for first-year associates at large U.S. law firms — those with 700 or more attorneys — is $135,000. That’s the lowest it’s been since 2006.

That, and the association said fewer law first-year associates are getting paid $160,000. In 2009, about two-thirds of firms said they paid new hires $160,000. This year, that number is down to about 27 percent.

As with any bad news, these numbers are getting the most attention. Heck, even Gawker took a minute to chime in with some faux sympathy.

The association’s news release chalks it up to law firms going through mergers and acquisitions, saying “the largest law firms are not as similar to one another as they used to be.”

“In addition to elite global firms, there are many firms with more than 700 lawyers that are made up of many smaller regional offices, none of which pay the benchmark first-year salary of $160,000, and, as a result, a larger percentage of large law firm starting salaries fall below that mark,” the release continues.

So while that salary, for most people, is still nothing to balk at, the information probably doesn’t sit well with new Wisconsin attorneys who are saddled with student loans and are having trouble finding work.

Have I depressed you enough about your profession? Sorry about that.

The good news, though, is that the association also says the median salary for a new attorney is $125,000, and that median has not changed since 2012.

In addition, firms with Intellectual Property lawyers, on average, more often pay its entry-level attorneys $160,000. The firms surveyed for this portion were mostly those with 250 or more attorneys, and according to the survey, the median salary at firms with IP litigation is about $70,000 higher for senior associates.

That’s not much of a surprise. IP litigation has become big business in the past two decades. College graduates with engineering degrees are going to law school expressly to litigate patent cases.

The release is worth checking out, as I didn’t come close to touching everything that was in it. It lists the median salary for an entry-level civil legal services attorney ($44,600) and also says the median salary for an entry-level attorney in the Midwest is the lowest in the country ($110,000).

Whoops, back to the bad news.

About Eric Heisig

One comment

  1. freundlaw@hotmail.com

    Crisis? What crisis? It looks like the top 10% of students from the top 10% of law schools are getting well paid by the largest 10% of law firms. I’m SO happy for them. Now, what about the rest of the graduating class? Or don’t they matter?

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