TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

BigLaw First Year Associate Salaries Jump To $180,000 (From $160,000)

Wall Street Journal Law Blog, A Closer Look at Cravath’s New Salary Scale:

As The Wall Street Journal reports, Cravath is bumping first-year pay up to $180,000 from its nearly decade-long perch at $160,000. If history is any guide, this will trigger other firms to match. Here’s the full new pay scale, according to an internal Cravath memo reviewed by the Wall Street Journal:

Class of 2015 — $180,000
Class of 2014 — $190,000
Class of 2013 — $210,000
Class of 2012 — $235,000
Class of 2011 — $260,000
Class of 2010 — $280,000
Class of 2009 — $300,000
Class of 2008 — $315,000

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2016/06/biglaw-first-year-associate-salaries-jump-to-180000-from-160000.html

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Comments

Well, we can now bid a happy farewell to one of a certain comments troll's favorite talking points. I realize, though, that's it's hard to acknowledge change when it contradicts one's very raison d'être. To paraphrase a favorite Upton Sinclair quotation of a certain scamblogger, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his self-esteem depends on his not understanding it.”

Posted by: Rob T. | Jun 7, 2016 6:29:57 AM

I'm really curious about how much these firms pay their "staff" attorneys and other non-partner track folks comparatively, and what percentage of the lawyer ranks they make up. Is it similar to the tenure track/clinical faculty dynamic?

Posted by: Anon | Jun 7, 2016 7:16:12 AM

A couple comments...

This is a nightmare for most law schools, especially those in the USNews 15-50 range. Firms will only move up with the intent of hiring the highest caliber grads. For the most part, that means T14 grads in the top half of the class, and maybe the top 5% elsewhere. I bet there will be a reduction in BIGLAW hiring at the semi-elite schools. This may liberate them from the $160k mark, and they may choose to go down the scale to $135k or even lower. The average T25 student was never driving that $160k price in the first place.

Not all firms will follow. I would say the AMLAW 50 follows, and gain an even greater share of T14 hires, and withdraw significantly from the T25ish schools. The rest of the AMLAW 250 does not follow, and, as a consequence, will never hire at HYS or in the top students at other T14s.

Posted by: JM | Jun 7, 2016 7:34:06 AM

And this is just the base, before $50K- to $100K bonuses. Around 7,000 law professors who left big law jobs to teach are probably questioning whether teaching is worth giving up $250,000 per year.

Posted by: Regret | Jun 7, 2016 8:09:04 AM

So... Still not what law firms were paying in real dollars in 2007, to say nothing of the 50% increase in sticker tuition at Cravath-feeding law schools or the continued explosion in cost of living in NYC. To have merely kept pace with tuition, Cravath would need to start in the neighborhood of $240,000.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jun 7, 2016 9:44:22 AM

This is apparently what it costs to get people to waste the best years of their lives by working the worst job in the world.

Posted by: Nick Ferron | Jun 8, 2016 5:27:41 AM

I get it. Firms are paying more because there are so many people graduating law school that the market is completely flooded and the price of lawyers is dropping.

What a minute. I must have made a mistake in my reasoning somewhere . . .

Posted by: Supply and Demand | Jun 8, 2016 11:37:22 AM

@Supply and Demand:

NALP median starting salary, 2008: $72k, or $79k in 2016 dollars.

Median NALP starting salary, 2014: $62,500, or $62,800 in 2016 dollars.

21% real dollar decline in six years. Cravath raising its starting to not quite what the 2007 rate is in 2016 dollars has nothing to do with anything.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jun 9, 2016 3:20:26 PM