The National Jurist - Back to School 2017 - 17
Higher pay but fewer jobs
at largest law firms
By Tyler roBerTs
Salaries for summer associates are rising, but
most predict fewer jobs moving forward.
The National Association for Law
Placement, or NALP, reported that the
median salary for first- and second-year
summer associates is $2,600 per week, and
$2,700 per week for third-year summer
associates, an 11 percent increase over the
The American Lawyer released salary
data, showing that summer associates at the
nation's largest law firms earned $3,285 per
week. This is comparable to what NALP
reported for law firms with 250 to 700
attorneys - $3,500 per week.
The bad news, however, is that law firms
are hiring fewer summer associates and firstyear associates. The number of summer
associate positions declined by 2.02 percent
in the last year, according to The American
"A majority of firms are telling us that
their partners are not busy enough," Eric
Seegar, a consultant at Altman Weil, told
The American Lawyer. "In firms where
partners are having a hard time keeping
themselves busy, they have less work to
throw to associates."
Data gathered by NALP confirms that
summer offers are on the decline for law
firms of all sizes, not just at the big law
firms. The NALP 2017 Associate Salary
Survey found that 50 percent of law firms
made fewer summer associate job offers for
Summer 2017 than for the previous year.
Starting salaries for new attorneys at
large law firms in New York, Washington,
D.C., and Los Angeles increased to
$180,000, but the national median
"It's not what I expected to see," said
James Leipold, NALP's executive director.
"After all of the publicity surrounding the
move to $180,000, I fully expected to see
the national median starting salary for law
firms move upwards, but what the data
reveal is that for the most part, only the
largest firms in the largest legal markets
made the move, and while many offices are
paying $180,000 to start, many are not.
The result is upward movement in some
law firm size bands, while the national
median has remain unchanged."
The overall median salary for first-year
associates nationwide was $135,000, but
ranged from $90,000 in firms of 50 or
fewer to $160,000 in firms of 500 to 700
Region and geography played important roles in salary variances. Many smaller
regional offices pay lower salaries.
employment rises to historic median,
matches bar exam pass rate
CommenTary By JaCk CriTTenden
The percentage of law school graduates
who were employed 10 months after
graduation continued to rise for the Class
of 2016, passing a historic median and
matching the percentage of graduates who
passed the bar exam.
The two milestones show that despite
a lagging job market, the number of legal
jobs is outpacing the shrinking number of
The American Bar Association reported
the percentage of graduates who held fulltime, long-term, bar passage required or
J.D. advantage jobs roughly 10 months
after graduation increased from 70 percent
for the Class of 2015 to 73 percent for the
Class of 2016.
The percentage of graduates from the
Class of 2016 who passed the bar exam
was also 73 percent, marking the first time
that full-time employment matched or
exceeded bar passage.
In prior years, the employment rate has
lagged behind the bar passage rate, as it is
very challenging for graduates to land jobs
until they have passed the bar exam. But
the percentage of graduates who are taking
J.D. advantage jobs, which don't require
the bar exam, has been increasing - rising
to 14.1 percent for the Class of 2016.
At the same time, the bar passage rate
has been dropping, from 82.5 percent for
first-time takers from ABA-approved law
schools in 2013 to 73 percent in 2016.
Back to School 2017
The NaTioNal JurisT
Perhaps even more meaningful, the
employment rate reached its historic median. Excluding students pursuing graduate law degrees, and including short-term
positions, the 2016 employment figure
was 75 percent. This matches the median employment rate from 2001 to 2008,
when NALP collected employment data
and did not separate short-term from
This means that, even though the
job market has changed, it has reached
equilibrium with the number of graduates, which has dropped from more than
46,000 in 2013 to 37,124 in 2016.