Starting salaries remain flat

First year associate salaries remain stagnant in 2013, according to a recent study.

The study, conducted by the National Association for Law Placement found that the overall median first-year associate salaries at firms of all sizes remained at $125,000, the same as the previous year.

“The story is really one of no change, or at least not much change,” James Leipold, Executive Director at the NALP said in a press release. “Compared to the period of 2006 through 2009, when associate salaries were rising year on year at a steady clip, in the period since the recession we have seen associate salaries remain more or less static.”

First-year associates at larger firms are earning around $160,000 in markets across the country. The study indicated that about 56 percent of first-year associates in firms with more than 700 lawyers had salaries at the $160,000 mark. Only 46 percent received the same salary in 2012, while 54 percent earned a salary of $160,000 in 2011.

“At the largest firms in the largest markets, a starting salary of $160,000 remains the norm, though its prevalence has ebbed and flowed a bit over the last several years,” Leipold said. “Associate salaries at smaller firms have shown very modest movement, both upward and downward over the last four years, also remaining essentially flat. And, there is nothing about the current market that suggests starting associate salaries will be moving up any time soon.”

The study indicated that first-year associate salaries haven’t changed much since 2007, and aren’t expected to fluctuate much in the next year, either. Firms with 700 or more lawyers reported that less than half of these firms will continue to pay their first-year associates a salary of $160,000, causing the median base pay for first-year associates who will begin working in the fall of 2013 to be about $147,500.

About 665 law offices across the country responded to a survey requesting salary information as of April 1, 2013. About 9 percent of respondents represented firms of 50 or fewer lawyers and 51 percent represented firms of more than 500 lawyers. 

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