Written by Joanna Hughes

The promise of a high salary is one of the things that draw many people to law careers. Now comes news that top law firms are offering even higher salaries to entry-level JDs. Here’s a closer look at what to expect, including where public sector salaries stand in comparison.

More Money for Top Law Grads

According to US News & World Report, Over the past few years, many large corporate law firms have raised their base rates for first-year associates to $190,000. This has inspired others to do the same, due to competition for top talent.

President of the Association of American Law Schools, Wendy Collins Perdue, says, “The firms feel that in order to attract the best candidates, their particular market requires those salary adjustments. The hikes are primarily in the larger markets -- New York and Washington, DC, but are now also spreading to Atlanta.”

Even some smaller 'boutique' law firms -- everywhere from Los Angeles to Houston -- are all following suit in an effort to win over the most in-demand job hunters.   

A Growing Gap

While it is possible for law grads with degrees from less prestigious institutions to land high-paying jobs, the chances are better for grads of top-tier law schools.

At the same time, the phenomenon is underscoring another issue: the gap between salaries in the private sector compared to those in the public sector.

“At a time when private sector starting salaries at the largest law firms are on the move as well, the gap between large law firms and public service salaries is highlighted," James Leipold, executive director at the National Association for Law Placement, said in a statement.

This is not to say that salaries are not rising in the public sector. However, they are significantly lower: in 2018, the typical entry-level salary for a public defender is $58,300. For those from the 15 highest-ranked law schools, meanwhile, starting salaries topped out at $65,000.

For more news on law associate hiring check out First Year Associate Hiring to Increase in US.




Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.
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