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Law Firms Continue to Cut Hiring

The law school Class of 2011 experienced a major impact on salaries because the largest law firms in the country are still cutting back on hiring. The Class of 2010 earned a mean salary of $84,111 while the Class of 2011 earned $78,653, which is a 6.5 percent drop. The NALP, the Association for Legal Career Professionals, released survey data that shows the media decreased from $63,000 to $60,000, which was a 5 percent decrease.

“It is important to understand that the downward shift in starting salaries is not, for the most part, the result of individual legal employers paying new grads less than they paid them in the past,” said James Leipold, executive director of NALP.

Studies released previously by the NALP provide data that shows 49 percent of graduates who were employed found jobs in law firms. This percentage can be compared to the 50.9 percent of graduates in the Class of 2010 and the 55.9 percent of graduates in the Class of 2009.

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“This drop in starting salaries, while expected, is surprising in its scope,” Leipold said. “Nearly all of the drop can be attributed to the continued erosion of private practice opportunities.”

The Legal Whiteboard is a blog written by William Henderson. Henderson is a professor of law at Indiana University Mauer School of Law – Bloomington. He recently wrote that the changes in salary and job cuts are part of a long-term change for law firms across the country.

“The long term solution — for both law firms and law schools — is for the price of entry level talent to come down to the point where young lawyers are more cost-effective to train,” he wrote.” And that price point is not $160,000. This inflated pay scale (which has supported ever higher tuitions at law schools) only persists because large firms are deathly afraid of adjusting their salary scales and being labeled second rate. So the solution is keep the entry pay high but hire very few law school graduates. This is not a farsighted or innovative business strategy.”

The survey from NALP discovered that since 2009, the median salary for government positions has been consistent, sitting at $52,000. The survey also discovered that positions in public interest organizations saw their salaries rise by 4.7 percent from last year. The salaries rose to $45,000 from $43,000.

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