The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) has produced an extremely useful chart for people trying to figure out where to start their Biglaw careers. They’ve listed the cities that give you the most bang for your buck if you land a high paying Biglaw job.

And boy, are New York City associates going to feel stupid.

The NALP “buying power index” sets New York as the baseline. It takes the median starting salary for the class of 2010 and the NYC cost of living index and sets that figure at 1.00. Cities with a better purchasing power than NYC have a value greater than 1.00.

New York ranks #42.

Most of the high-ranking cities also have the benefit of warmth….

Here’s the full NALP list. The index doesn’t just rank the cities, it also tells you how much you’d have to make in each city to equal the purchasing power of people in NYC making $160K. Here are the top ten:

The asterisk denotes that these figures have been rounded to the nearest $10.

New York associates should be weeping. It’s one thing to say that people in Texas have a better purchasing power than people in Manhattan. That’s a trade-off most New Yorkers are glad to make for the privilege of not living in Texas. But look at some of the other big cities that still rank in the top ten: Boston, D.C., L.A., and Chicago. These are not cultural dead zones. These are just places where people are enjoying a better life for the same money.

There was a time — before the recession, and perhaps even before salaries were widely publicized on popular websites — when New York associates would enjoy a significant New York bump. In base salaries and bonuses, you got paid more to work in New York because New York cost more.

But the income gap between New York lawyers and lawyers everywhere else has closed, leading to apparently disastrous consequences on the financial viability of living in New York.

And then there is, of course, Texas. Man. It must feel good to be a gangster. I know a few Texans living in NYC who always talk about how great Texas is. I’m going to email them now asking what the hell they are still doing here. Clearly, they’re taking a huge financial hit to live somewhere they don’t even like as much as home.

This is a list worth keeping in mind as you try to figure out where you want to start or continue your Biglaw career.

Buying Power Index Class of 2010 [National Association for Law Placement]


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