NALP

In the simplest terms, it is fair to say that law firm starting salaries are flat. The fact that the incidence of $160,000 as the starting salary at the largest law firms is less than it was before the recession is really more a reflection of the changing contours of the large firm market, not the fact that law firms are paying entry-level associates less than they used to. Many law offices that are part of large firms, particularly those in the largest markets, continue to pay $160,000, but the data since 2009 clearly show that the large firm market now also contains many firms that do not pay $160,000. In some ways the data simply reflect the growing cohort of large firms, and it shows that they are not a monolithic entity. In many markets starting salaries of $145,000 or $135,000 or even less are the norm.

James Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), commenting on the shrinking prevalence of $160,000 starting salaries for first-year Biglaw associates in NALP’s 2014 Associate Salary Survey.

(What other information can be gleaned from the 2014 Associate Salary Survey?)

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Last week I wrote about the bar exam. This week I am hearkening back to happier times after first and/or second year of law school: fat paycheck, lunch out everyday, the life of a Biglaw summer associate. 

But maybe it isn’t quite the same experience for everyone….

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The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) just released its employment data for the law school class of 2013. Roughly nine months after graduation, how are these folks faring in the job market?

As we’ve come to expect from jobs reports in the post-recession “new normal” (which is no longer really “new”), there’s good news and there’s bad news. The big picture: new graduates found more jobs in total and median starting salaries grew, but the overall employment rate fell due to the historically large graduating class.

Shall we take a look at some numbers?

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* This Biglaw firm is getting into the imaginary money business by bidding on $18M of Bitcoins seized in the Silk Road raid. Maybe they’ll accept this new “currency” as payment. [Am Law Daily]

* Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wants his trial moved to New York or D.C. for an unbiased jury. Moving it to cities where terrorist attacks have occurred is a great idea! [Bloomberg]

* Here’s a perfect headline for a lovely Friday when we imagine people will be able to get in some quality day drinking: “Market Struggles to Absorb Record Law School Class of ’13.” [National Law Journal]

* Part of George Zimmerman’s defamation lawsuit against NBC was dismissed because his attorneys waited too long to ask the network for a retraction. Time to paint a picture about it, Georgie. [Fox News]

* Can you sue the dude who banged your wife for ruining your marriage? It sucks for cuckolded husbands, but you can’t in most states, including West Virginia, where family trees grow in a circle. [WSJ Law Blog]

Recently, a solo practitioner somewhere in the Midwest posted on Facebook about her “incredible” annoyance at the fact that the ATL Law School Rankings do not count solos (and therefore her) as part of a school’s “employment score.”1

That’s unremarkable, of course. We don’t expect or intend that our approach will please everybody. Anyway, the resultant comment thread was, for the most part, a thoughtful discussion of the pros and cons of excluding solo practitioners in evaluating a particular law school school class’s employment outcomes. Again, all of this is unremarkable, and — especially considering the ATL rankings were published back in April — hardly worth noting now. But one particular commenter really, seriously disliked the ATL rankings methodology. Before you say “so what?” (or “me too”), consider the commenter is indisputably one of the most influential law school deans in the country. Not only that, this dean made a “suggestion” in the course of the discussion that, if it were adopted, would be a game changer for how law schools would share employment data….


1 It must be noted that the solo did not read or did not understand our methodology in the first place. Our employment scores measure the most recent class ten months after graduation. She only recently began her practice. Prior to that she worked for a couple years as a public defender, a job that would have been counted under our formula.

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Promising answers to questions nobody is asking, the Buzzfeed-style personality quiz is the most virulent force in social media. Which Ryan Gosling Character Is Your Soulmate? What Type Of Chicken Tender Is Right For You? Are You Turning Into Your Mom? The silly online personality quizzes are sort of the idiot stepchildren of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, that test designed to distill human personality into abstract terms. (For some background on Myers-Briggs, see here.)

The MBTI and its progeny have long been used by government agencies and educational institutions, but it truly has a foothold in corporate America. The MBTI supposedly helps employers to identify potentially successful employees and job candidates to identify their strengths. From the employer’s perspective, these tools offer a chance to identify potential successful hires based on something more objective than hiring managers’ hunches and first impressions.

A recent New York Times Magazine piece detailed an ongoing movement to “revolutionize the human capital resource allocation market” through Moneyball-style, Big Data empiricism. Apparently, employers are becoming more cautious and deliberate in their interviewing processes (the average length of the interviewing period had doubled over the past five years), while at the same time employing work-force-analytics software that can make the process cheaper and more efficient. All in all, around 80% of the Fortune 500 companies practice data-driven assessment in their hiring processes.

Which brings us to the legal industry, an outlier in this “revolutionary,” data-driven recruitment landscape…

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Is the grass greener at another law firm?

I had the pleasure of spending much of last week in Seattle, for the 2014 Annual Education Conference of the Association for Legal Career Professionals (aka NALP). On Thursday afternoon, my colleague Brian Dalton and I, along with Guy Alvarez of Good2bSocial, gave a well-attended presentation on new media strategies that work.

I unfortunately had to leave the conference early to speak at another symposium (the Marquette Law conference on law clerks). But while at NALP, I did attend a number of informative panels, centered around two topics: (1) lateral hiring at law firms and (2) federal judicial clerkships.

Here are some themes that emerged from the three lateral hiring panels I attended:

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I think the class of 2011 will historically come to be seen as the bottom of the market.

Jim Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), in comments made during the group’s 2014 conference in Seattle, Washington. Recall that the overall employment rate for the class of 2011 was just 85.6 percent — the lowest since 1994 — with less than half finding jobs in private practice.

Katherine Heigl

* A three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit seemed a bit torn as to the constitutionality of Utah’s same-sex marriage ban during oral arguments yesterday. This one could be a contender to go all the way to the Supremes. [New York Times]

* Another concussion lawsuit has been filed against the National Hockey League by a group of former players, this time alleging a culture of “extreme violence.” The pleadings are a bit… odd. We’ll have more on this later today. [Bloomberg]

* “We’re not going back to 2006 anytime soon,” says NALP executive director Jim Leipold. The legal sector lost lots of jobs in the recession, and they’re not likely to come back. Happy Friday! [National Law Journal]

* It’s never too soon to start writing your law school application essay. Please try not to bore the admissions officers — make sure you have a “compelling” topic. [Law Admissions Lowdown / U.S. News]

* Katherine Heigl (remember her?) probably needed some cash, so she filed a $6M lawsuit against Duane Reade for posting a picture of her carrying one of the drugstore’s bags on Twitter. [Hollywood Reporter]

This glass is half-full, right?

It depends. Your view of the direction of the job market for summer and entry-level associates will depend upon which metrics you focus on. That seems to be the bottom line of the latest findings from the good folks over at the National Association for Law Placement (NALP).

The overall outlook seems to be… muddled. Some indicators are up a little; some indicators are down a little. Things appear a bit flat — which is not that different from last year.

But I’m finding (or trying to find) reasons for optimism. Hear me out….

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