The median starting salary for new law school graduates from the Class of 2010 fell 13% and the mean salary fell 10% according to new research released today from NALP. The research also reveals that aggregate starting private practice salaries fell an astonishing 20% for this class. These are among the most dramatic findings that were released this week from NALP's Employment Report and Salary Survey for the Class of 2010.
As NALP reported in June, the employment profile for this class contrasts markedly from that of the previous class, with fewer employed graduates obtaining jobs in law firms — 50.9% compared with 55.9% for the Class of 2009 (see "Class of 2010 Graduates Faced Worst Job Market Since Mid-1990s: Longstanding Employment Patterns Interrupted," available on the NALP website). Moreover, the distribution of those jobs by size of firm shifted, with relatively fewer jobs in the largest firms and relatively more jobs in firms of 50 or fewer attorneys. Over half of the law firm jobs — 53% — taken by the Class of 2010 were in firms of 50 or fewer attorneys, compared with 46% for the class of 2009. The proportion of jobs in firms of more than 250 attorneys decreased from 33% for the Class of 2009 to 26% for the Class of 2010. This shift is reflected in the salary figures for the Class of 2010.
The national median salary for the Class of 2010, based on those working full-time and reporting a salary, was $63,000, compared with $72,000 for the Class of 2009 (falling nearly 13%), and the national mean was $84,111, compared with $93,454 for the Class of 2010 (falling nearly 10%). However, because many large law firm salaries cluster around $145,000 and $160,000, while many other salaries are in the $40,000 to $65,000 range, relatively few salaries were actually near the overall median or mean.
The national median salary at law firms based on reported salaries was $104,000, compared with $130,000 the prior year (falling 20%), again reflecting the shift in the distribution of these jobs, and also salary adjustments on the part of some firms. Although salaries of $160,000 still prevail at the largest firms, their share has dropped in firms of 101-500 attorneys, creating further downward pressure on the median.
The adjusted mean for all full-time jobs reported was $77,333 (in contrast to the unadjusted national mean of $84,111), and the adjusted mean for full-time law firm jobs was $93,748 (in contrast to the unadjusted mean of $106,444). ...
Medians for government and public interest jobs were virtually unchanged from 2009, at $52,000 and $42,900, respectively. The median salary for judicial clerkships was $51,900, compared with $50,000 in 2009.