Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

NALP: Median First-Year Associate Salary Rises To $165,000, Despite Pandemic

NALP, First-Year Associate Salaries Show Modest Growth at Large Firms; 2020 Salary Reductions Put in Place Due to the Pandemic Don’t Have Lasting Impact:

The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) today released its 2021 Associate Salary Survey report, showing that the overall median first-year associate base salary as of Jan. 1, 2021 was $165,000, up $10,000 (6.5%) from 2019, the year of the last survey administration. Law firms of more than 250 lawyers accounted for about 78% of the 572 responses.

“Despite widespread media reports of austerity measures implemented by law firms during the pandemic, including delays in partner draws and in some cases temporary salary reductions for lawyers, the findings from NALP’s latest Associate Salary Survey show that associate compensation has continued to grow over the last two years, with first-year associate compensation of $190,000 now measured as the most common starting salary, reflecting the continued strength of the legal sector despite a difficult year,” said James G. Leipold, NALP’s Executive Director.

Salary increases were not universal across firm sizes. The greatest salary growth was observed in firms of 101-250 lawyers, where median first-year base salaries increased $15,000 from $115,000 in 2019 to $130,000 in 2021 (13.0% increase). First-year salaries in firms of 251-500 lawyers and more than 700 lawyers each grew by $10,000 as compared to 2019, rising to $170,000 and $190,000, respectively. Salaries in firms of 501-700 lawyers were down slightly, dropping from $160,000 in 2019 to $155,000 in 2021. This decrease is not indicative of firms of 501-700 lawyers lowering their first-year salaries since 2019, but it is because of differences in the composition of firms that fell into this firm size between the two years.


The full 2021 Associate Salary Survey report is available here

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