Starting Salaries

If you’re a frequent reader of this website, you know that we continuously talk about the effects of law school debt and the need for tuition decreases so young lawyers can go on to lead normal lives after graduation instead of wearing their debt around their necks like slowly tightening nooses.

As time goes by, more and more law schools are starting to listen and reform — though in some cases, we imagine it’s only because they’re now feeling the pain of a decrease in tuition dollars due to low enrollment and smaller classes.

Until all law schools get in gear with the way things work now, we’ve got a list of law schools where life could be good after graduation. At these law schools, the average graduate has a starting salary that outweighs his average debt load…

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Despite making six figures, some Biglaw associates are still unhappy with the amount of money they take home. Starting salaries at some firms are larger than at others, and for all of the intense labor that comes with being an associate, it’s just not fair.

How should Biglaw firms respond to these complaints? Some of the more enlightened members of law firm leadership would increase their associates’ salaries to match the rest of the market, but most would happily continue to work their associates to the bone and ignore their wage woes.

One firm apparently thought it had found a way around associates’ salary grievances, but it may have just backfired. Straight from the firm that produced the sexist women’s style memo seen ’round the world, we bring you what seems to be one of the craziest incentive programs we’ve ever heard of…

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Judge Elizabeth Osborne Williams?

* If the Dewey & LeBoeuf criminal defendants end up going to trial, it’s fair to say the star witnesses in the case will be those who’ve already pleaded guilty — all seven of them. [Am Law Daily]

* Biglaw firms are constantly shrinking in size, leaving many office buildings wide open. Landlords are desperate to put asses in seats, so it’s kind of like law school. [Washington Post]

* “A judicial post is not an hereditary position.” There’s nepotism, and then there’s nepotism, and this Georgia judge is really trying to keep it all in the family. He’s basically ensured that his seat on the bench will go to his daughter. [Daily Report (reg. req.)]

* Let’s keep the rankings party going with an infographic about job rates and median starting salaries. Law schools tied for first place with $160K Biglaw salaries: 21. Not shocked. [U.S. News & World Report]

* The family of Danielle Thomas, the woman who was murdered by indebted law school grad Jason Bohn, is suing the NYPD with claims that the police ignored her calls for help. Sad. :( [New York Post]

A few months ago, we wrote a story about the $160K-Plus Club: those law firms that pay their first-year associates more than $160,000 a year, the going rate within Biglaw. Earlier this week, we covered which cities give young lawyers the biggest bang for their buck — i.e., cities where the buying power of the median salary for that city is the greatest.

Let’s mash up these two stories. Today we bring you news of a law firm that (1) pays a starting salary of more than $160,000 and (2) is based in a city that’s in the top ten for buying power. Associates at this firm are — by our calculations, based on the NALP Buying Power Index — living as well as someone earning $414,000 in New York City. That’s a staggering sum for a first-year associate.

So which firm are we talking about? And are they hiring?

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As we recently mentioned, Biglaw is not all about the benjamins. There is so much more to the practice of law than the monetary rewards. Focus on doing the best work you can for your clients and your colleagues, and the money will take care of itself (well, at least most of the time).

Of course, it’s much easier to take a relaxed attitude towards money if you have a good amount of it. It’s easy for well-paid partners to tell young associates not to worry about money, when the partners enjoy seven-figure paychecks while the associates struggle under six-figure student loans.

If you’re a young lawyer dealing with educational debt, you know that every extra dollar counts. Every dollar earned means you’re one buck closer to liberation from loans.

Which leads us to today’s question: which law firms pay the largest starting salaries to their associates?

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Last month, the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) released information about the overall employment rate for the class of 2011 — information that seemed dismal, at best. The American Bar Association then followed up with its own employment data, and it was “just as dire” as everyone expected, if not worse.

We know that the overall employment rate for the class of 2011 is lower than it’s been in 17 years. But even members of the class of 2011 who managed to secure employment have been screwed. Median starting salaries for new law school graduates have dropped by 35% over the past two years.

Since prospective law students are not great with facts and numbers, NALP was kind enough to put together some pretty pictures to help people understand….

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