Sunday, May 17, 2015
The New York Times DealB%k reporting on how the percentage of law firms offering top-of-the-market starting salaries has increased since last year to 39% though it is still well below the pre-recession figure when nearly two-thirds of the top firms offered starting salaries of $160K.
Salaries for lawyers starting out at firms have remained flat, with an annual pay of $160,000 continuing to be the top of the market, according to a new survey from the National Association for Law Placement.
Some 39 percent of the largest firms — those with 700 lawyers or more — reported paying that amount in the association’s 2015 law associates’ salary survey. This was up from last year, when only 27 percent of the big firms reported paying their new legal hires at the uppermost level.
But the percentage was still below 2009, when nearly two-thirds of the first-year salaries were at the top point of $160,000.
The reason is not that individual firms are paying less, said James G. Leipold, executive director of National Association for Law Placement, but “as more law firms have grown through acquisition and merger, the largest law firms are not as similar to one another as they used to be.”
Mr. Leipold added that there were many firms with more than 700 lawyers that have many smaller regional offices, many of which don’t pay the benchmark first-year salary of $160,000. As a result, he added, “a larger percentage of large law firm starting salaries fall below that mark.”
There are certainly exceptions, with some first-year associates making more than the $160,000 figure. But, for the most part, the ceiling seems to have been stuck at that amount since 2007, when some law firms began to increase starting salaries — a practice that soon began to wane as the economy turned down.
“The simple story is that $160,000 as a starting salary at large law firms is less prevalent than it was immediately prior to the recession,” Mr. Leipold explained. “At large law firms, starting salaries of $145,000 and $135,000, and even $110,000 are common in some markets, though $160,000 is still the dominant or modal salary in large markets.”
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