We haven’t had a good New York to 190 post in a while, and maybe there’s a reason for that. While many associates (and partners) feel that they’re long overdue for a raise, starting salaries have grown stagnant in New York — and across the country, for that matter. Remember back in 2007 when we first reported that Simpson Thacher raised incoming associates’ base salaries to $160,000? That was five years ago, and these days, you’ll be lucky if you’re making what you would’ve been taking home before that $15K salary bump.
While that $160K sweet spot for first-years is still the norm in many large markets, it’s no longer as widespread as it once was. In fact, that figure represents only 46 percent of first-year salaries in firms with more than 700 lawyers — and that percentage has been on a steady decline since 2009, when layoffs and terror ran rampant in Biglaw.
Sorry about that tiny pink paycheck of yours….
If you were expecting to rake in the big bucks at your cushy Biglaw job as an incoming associate, then think again. Less than half of firms with more than 700 lawyers will be doling out starting salaries of $160,000; instead, there has been a “measurable backing away” from that number. It’s almost like stepping into a time machine and being spit out in 2007, as the median starting salary for firms of this size is now $145,000.
According to Jim Leipold, NALP’s Executive Director, gone are the days of year-over-year salary increases: “We would not expect to see much widespread upward movement in associate salaries until the demand for legal services in North America picks up considerably from where we are today.”
And here we thought that we were starting to recover from the recession. Guess not. But perhaps this first-year salary thaw is also due to the fact that clients are outright refusing to pay for their work — a trend that’s fueling the increasing emphasis of law schools on teaching practical skills to students.
Here’s a chart of the reported data from NALP’s 2012 Associate Salary Survey (click to enlarge):
There was one happy note in NALP’s associate salary survey: the overall median first-year salary at firms of all sizes is $125,000, up from $115,000 in 2011. But as for Biglaw on the whole, it seems like a $145,000 salary for incoming associates is the “new normal” — and for many, “normal” has never felt so strange.