Median pay for new associates jumps nearly 15%, NALP survey says

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The median salary for first-year associates was $155,000 at the beginning of the year, a jump of $20,000 from 2017, according to figures released Wednesday by the National Association for Law Placement.

That’s an increase of 14.8% from 2017, the last time NALP collected the data. Law firms with more than 250 lawyers accounted for about 70% of the survey responses, according to a press release.

The greatest growth in pay was in law firms of more than 700 lawyers, where median base salaries for first-year associates increased from $155,000 in 2017 to $180,000 as of Jan. 1.

Median pay was $160,000 for associates in firms with 251 to 500 lawyers and 501 to 700 lawyers; $115,000 in firms with 51 to 100 lawyers and 101 to 250 lawyers; and $98,750 in firms with 50 or fewer lawyers.

Many large law firms had announced $190,000 starting salaries for associates last year, but there weren’t enough firms paying that amount to push the median to $190,000. However, $190,000 was the most frequently reported first-year salary; 29.3% of all law firms reported paying that amount to new associates.

James Leipold, executive director at the NALP, commented on the findings in a press release. First-year salaries of $190,000 helped drive up salaries even in firms paying a lower amount, he said. He also noted that some large firms have not yet embraced $190,000 starting pay.

“These hikes often take two or more years to move through the market,” he said.



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