Business & Practice

First-Year Law Firm Associates Earn Median $155K, Survey Says

May 22, 2019, 7:54 PM

First-year salaries for law firm associates saw double-digit growth last year but many of them didn’t match the much-publicized figure of $190,000 that some make at the biggest firms, new figures show.

While 29 percent of firms participating in the National Association for Law Placement’s 2019 Associate Salary Survey reported that higher figure, “these hikes often take two or more years to move through the market,” said James Leipold, the placement association’s executive director.

One reason that some of the largest firms have not matched the $190,000 pay level for 2017 that made headlines was that some with more than 700 lawyers are composed of many smaller regional offices.

Many of those firms “do not pay the new benchmark first-year salary of $190,000,” said Leipold. “As a result, the majority of law firm starting salaries fall below that mark.”

The median for first-year salaries from 2018 was $155.000, according to the latest survey results.

Most firms paying the top amount were clustered in a few cities, including Dallas, the Los Angeles/Orange County area, New York City and Washington, the report found.

The survey found that at firms with more than 701 lawyers, median first-year base salaries increased $25,000 to $180,000 up from $155,000 in 2017. That is a 16.1 percent increase.

There was more modest growth, 6.7 percent, to $160,000 median first-year salary at firms between 251 and 500 lawyers. That was up from $150,000 in 2017.

Generally, the most recent salaries were static at smaller firms, both those with 51 to 100 lawyers as well as those with 101 to 250 lawyers. But salaries also flat lined for firms with 501 to 700 lawyers.

The law placement, an association of some 2,500 legal career professionals, has been tracking law firm associate salaries since 1996.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Olson in Washington at egolson1@gmail.com
To contact the editor on this story: Rebekah Mintzer in New York at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

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