First year associate salaries at top large law firms are making the jump from $160,000 to $180,000 a year, without bonuses. Cravath, an old New York City based American law firm, pioneered this change in early June. Other prestigious law firms are following suit – some as soon as one day later in order to ensure potential first year associates that they are just as competitive as the best law firms and can offer the same monetary benefits. With such high starting salaries, senior year associates can expect to earn over $400,000 per year after less than 10 years of work. These new $20,000 increases will likely add pressure to other large firms to similarly increase their associates’ salaries in order to keep up with the growing trend.
Such salaries put these first year associates in strong opposition with other law school graduates who are finding it hard to make a return on investment of their tuition costs. Graduation employment rates are still down nearly 10% since a few years ago proving it difficult for students to find jobs at all, let alone ones paying such high starting salaries. A law school graduate from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law recently lost a case she brought against her school for their misleading graduate employment figures. She argued that despite the information she relied on from her school, she has been unable to find a salaried job since graduation because the school did not inform students that some peoples’ titles were non-legal, such as pool cleaners and waitresses.
Students attending law schools with reputable graduation employment records are likely to remain on the benefitting side of investment, while others may have a comparably tougher time being as fortunate right out of law school.