No Bell

The recession has whacked salaries of of big law firms, but has not reduced the disparity in starting associate salaries according to Study Shows Sharp Disparities in Law Associate Compensation.  The study is based on 2008 starting salaries.  Since 2000 starting associate salaries abandoned a bell-curve distribution for a distribution with two peaks.  The first is part of a small bell curve between $40,00 and $65,000 and accounts for 42% of starting salaries.  The line trends down steadily to $65,000 and then soars to a narrow peak between $160,000 and $170,000, where 23% of starting salaries lie.  A rollback in starting salaries and re-engineering of associate compensation models should move that peak to the left in coming years–it may “inch back toward the $145,000 range” flatten the curve.  In other words the low end will remain low and the high end will move closer to it.

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  • JesseR

    In addition, one alternative several big law firms are heading towards is a $100K "apprenticeship" or "trainee" program for the first two years. Howrey LLP and Drinker Biddle LLP are both implementing these programs as "options" (but eventually new hires will either have to accept this option, or else look elsewhere), and after the apprenticeship attorneys would become regular Associates. A second major change includes ending the "lock step" pay increase and partner-track systems. Both Orick Herrington and Squire Sanders (both major firms) are offering associates the option to become "staff attorneys" (at lower pay), instead of steadily increasing salary and responsibilities to become partners, probably because the attrition rates are not what they used to be.
    Yet, the ABA Journal just reported that law school admissions is at its all time high…