Back in 2011, the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) produced an extremely useful chart for people trying to figure out where to start their Biglaw careers. The chart, which tracks buying power based on starting salaries for associates, is a great way to find out where you’ll get the most bang for your buck if you land a lucrative Biglaw gig.
NALP’s Buying Power Index continues to use New York City ($160,000) as the baseline. It takes the median starting salary for the class of 2011 and the cost of living index for NYC and sets that figure at 1.00. Cities with a better purchasing power than NYC have a value greater than 1.00. In all, 76 cities have been ranked.
When we first wrote about this, associates in New York City were crestfallen when they found out that their city was number 42 on the list — they realized they were essentially throwing their money down the drain. This year, NYC has tumbled even further down the list.
How badly are they getting screwed, and where can you go if you want greater purchasing power?
This year, New York City is ranked at #47. Point and laugh, everyone, because if you’re located somewhere else, your dollars are being spent much more wisely. If you’re now inspired to move, here are the top ten cities:
NALP’s full Buying Power Index list is available here for your perusal. If you’re still not convinced that New York City is a total money pit, NALP doesn’t mince words in its analysis. Maybe this will drive the point home for you:
It is evident that the buying power of the median salary in more than 60% of the cities listed exceeds that of New York’s when relative costs of living are factored in.
“How you like me now?” asked every associate in Texas, a state with two major cities in the top five spots (and no state income tax). It is now painfully obvious that it’s no longer financially viable to live in New York City, so it may be time to consider transferring to (or starting your career at) another office — your wallet will thank you.
And no, you won’t have to live in some podunk town; just take a look at some of the other cultural hubs and major metropolises that fall in NALP’s top ten, places like Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington, D.C., all of which have been ranked as some of the best cities for young attorneys. (Keep in mind that New York City is also on that list, but at #20, whereas all the rest are ranked much higher.)
When all is said and done, this is definitely a list worth keeping in mind as you try to figure out where you want to start or continue your Biglaw career, especially if you’re interested in enjoying a better life outside the office (assuming you have one).
Buying Power Index Class of 2011 [National Association for Law Placement]