Lawyers salaries (in the wild)

I got into an argument with one of my friends who is in law school about lawyers salaries. So I searched around the internet, and I found this fascinating graph of 2008 starting lawyers salaries from this blog entry on .

The blog entry goes on to say:
“Of the 22,305 law school graduates in NALP’s sample (over half of all 2008 graduates), a remarkable 23% (5,130 ’08 grads) reported an entry-level salary of $160,000. In contrast, 42% of entry level lawyers reported salaries in the $40,000 to $65,000 range. Once again, the central tendencies are a poor guide to the distribution as a whole: whereas the mean salary is a $92,000, the median salary was $72,000. Further, the two modes ($50,000 and $160,000) are separated by $110,000.”

Some comments:
1.)They sample over 22,000 law school graduates, which they claim is over half of all graduates. I wonder, however, if there is any systematic bias in this sample (I have no evidence there is or is not). For instance, people making very low wages may choose not to respond. This could further inflate (or deflate, if the opposite was occuring) starting salary statistics.

2.) I’m sure if you ask law schools about job prospects after you graduate, they would be happy to site the average starting salary of $92,000. I’d also bet if you ask law students about how much they expect to make they would quote the $92,000 average starting salary. Judging by this graph though, I imagine there are a lot of jaded 1st year lawyers pulling in $60,000 a year, which is by no means a bad living except……..

3.) Debt. It would be interesting to see this same graph of 2008 first year salaries, but minus the loan payments. The standard repayment period according to this is 10 years. Accoridng to this the tuition at Harvard Law school in 2009 is $41,500.

Say you finance all of that and nothing else. You owe $124,500. At 5% over ten years you owe $1382.21 a month. At $160,000 you are making over $13,000/month. Not a problem at all. But if you’re making
$60,000 a month like a lot of first year lawyers, you are effectively only making $43.413.48=$60,000-$16,586.52 (salary-loan payments). I think that would be an interesting graph. Anyone have that data?



Posted on August 17, 2009, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I will make a quality-of-life point: Of the lawyers I know (and I expect this is true generally), the ones making higher-end salaries work many more hours than other professionals. After dividing by actual hours worked, I expect that many lawyers return on time worked is no better than that of other professionals.

  2. And, of course, they are doing legal work. No amount of compensation could get me to do legal work for 60-80 hours a week.

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