Has it come to this?

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jcl2
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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby jcl2 » Wed Jan 27, 2010 3:10 pm

Renzo wrote:
jcl2 wrote:
Renzo wrote:
jcl2 wrote:That is an exaggeration, there is certainly a bimodal curve, but median starting salary for the class of 2008 was $72,000 and though it is difficult to read the graph with any precision, it looks like roughly 35-40% of jobs for first year graduates were 6 figures, over 20% where at $160,000.

Here is the source: http://www.nalp.org/salarydistrib


From your source:
The new reality is that very few law school graduates actually make either the median or mean starting salaries, and so it is neither helpful nor accurate to describe starting lawyer salaries using those modalities... It is important for anyone considering a legal education to understand that half of all starting lawyer salaries are less than $72,000 and in fact 42% of them are between only $40,000 and $65,000.


I wasn't disputing that. Yes not many earn salaries right around the mean or median, but half earn salaries of more than 72k, which doesn't seem too terrible. Again, I'm not saying things are great out there, especially ITE, but the idea that most first year lawyers earn only 40-50k is inaccurate.

I still think that you are unreasonably reassured by these statistics. Essentially that report says, "T14 or bust" in that it says 26% of new lawyers are making exactly 160k as biglaw 1st years, while almost half are making less than $65k, and the amount of jobs anywhere in between is small and shrinking. This is also a survey of 1st year lawyer salaries, so it doesn't count those who can't find legal work, or find they can make more money doing non-legal work.


I'm not really taking a stance on whether these statistics should be reassuring to anyone, they are not particularly reassuring to me since it doesn't tell me anything about how graduates of the school I will be attending fare or how the legal market where I intend to practice is doing. Again, just pointing out that there are still plenty of of law school grads doing ok.

Going to law school can be a very risky investment, I'm not arguing with that, and I think the NALP salary distributions are evidence of that. If you are going to be taking out 200k in loans to finance your legal education you need a six figure salary after you graduate, so T14 or bust is the appropriate attitude, and there is even a bit of risk in that ITE. Personally I would not pay that price to attend anything lower than a T10 at worst, and I would not attend, for any price, anything other than T14, well maybe 15-18, or a top regional where I wanted to practice.

Personally, I am going to a T30 with in-state tuition that is the best school within 800 miles. I feel reasonably assured that I will be ok, but the NALP salary surveys are not the reason for that assurance, rather it is an evaluation of my personal circumstances and the prospects for graduates of the school I will be attending that lead me to feel that way. I won't have unreasonable debt and my wife also earns a good living, so I will be fine even if I only earn 40-50k out of law school, that is not what I am hoping for nor is it the most likely outcome, but I am fully prepared for that worst case scenario.

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thesealocust
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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby thesealocust » Wed Jan 27, 2010 3:40 pm

edit: never mind
Last edited by thesealocust on Wed Jun 30, 2010 11:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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jcl2
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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby jcl2 » Wed Jan 27, 2010 4:03 pm

thesealocust wrote:
jcl2 wrote:
thesealocust wrote:Roughly 10% of jobs for fresh JDs pay 6 figures in a good year. Most of the jobs that don't pay 6 figures are much closer to the 40-50K end of the spectrum. I'd hardly call it 'public sector' money, tons of private sector jobs are in that range too.

Reality: Not as fun as the alternative, but substantially more real.


That is an exaggeration, there is certainly a bimodal curve, but median starting salary for the class of 2008 was $72,000 and though it is difficult to read the graph with any precision, it looks like roughly 35-40% of jobs for first year graduates were 6 figures, over 20% where at $160,000.

Here is the source: http://www.nalp.org/salarydistrib

There also appear to be many more jobs in the 50-65k range than the 40-50k range, and there is a significant difference between those ranges IMO. For example 45k would be about the minimum needed to survive and make minimum loan payments in most major cities, where as at 55k you could have some semblance of a life.

I'm not trying to paint a rosy picture of job prospects in the legal field, there is certainly an over supply of new lawyers every year, many graduates are unable to find legal work, and graduates of T2 and lower schools have almost no chance at 6 figure jobs straight out of school, I'm just trying to point out that the idea that 90% of people who go to law school are doomed to eternal poverty is a little overly pessimistic.


Sorry for not citing my source, but I've done much more research on this than most on this board.

Here's the stitch: The bimodal curve is important, but the graph suffers from a MASSIVE response bias. I did in depth research based on the NLJ 250, the NALP placement data, schools employment statistics, etc. and came up with a pretty solid estimation that in any given year there are only ~5,000 big firm jobs with 6 figure starting salaries. Roughly half of those jobs go to graduates from the top 14 law schools. The true curve is still bimodal, the the 160K curve is likely half the size of the 40-60K curve if the survey didn't suffer from an enormous response bias.

If you feel like it the post where I chugged all the numbers is somewhere in my posting history.


Fair enough, I guess I underestimated the response bias towards higher salaries, I haven't really done much research into the NALP survey methods and whether they do anything to account for such biases. I still think your numbers might be a little pessimistic, since there are jobs outside the NLJ 250 paying six figures and even market. Even assuming 5000 big firm jobs, you can also figure a few thousand competitive non-biglaw jobs, willingly taken by students who would otherwise be qualified for biglaw jobs, including clerkships, federal government positions, non profits, etc. Anyway I think significantly more than 10% of all law students will end up doing pretty well straight out of school, probably more like 20-25%, and many more will be fine if they make responsible decisions and understand the possibility of a relatively low starting salary.

I think we can probably all agree that the biggest problem is people being duped into spending 40k+ per year for tier 2-4, and even some tier 1, schools with the promise of glamorous biglaw jobs upon graduation, when in reality most of these students have almost no chance at such jobs, and many will not even be able to find jobs as lawyers at all.

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thesealocust
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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby thesealocust » Wed Jan 27, 2010 4:10 pm

edit: never mind
Last edited by thesealocust on Wed Jun 30, 2010 11:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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algren
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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby algren » Wed Jan 27, 2010 4:54 pm

thesealocust wrote:
jcl2 wrote:Fair enough, I guess I underestimated the response bias towards higher salaries, I haven't really done much research into the NALP survey methods and whether they do anything to account for such biases. I still think your numbers might be a little pessimistic, since there are jobs outside the NLJ 250 paying six figures and even market. Even assuming 5000 big firm jobs, you can also figure a few thousand competitive non-biglaw jobs, willingly taken by students who would otherwise be qualified for biglaw jobs, including clerkships, federal government positions, non profits, etc. Anyway I think significantly more than 10% of all law students will end up doing pretty well straight out of school, probably more like 20-25%, and many more will be fine if they make responsible decisions and understand the possibility of a relatively low starting salary.

I think we can probably all agree that the biggest problem is people being duped into spending 40k+ per year for tier 2-4, and even some tier 1, schools with the promise of glamorous biglaw jobs upon graduation, when in reality most of these students have almost no chance at such jobs, and many will not even be able to find jobs as lawyers at all.


I agree completely with everything you said.


+ 1 We should close this thread now. That was perfect.

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rayiner
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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby rayiner » Wed Jan 27, 2010 4:59 pm

jcl2 wrote:I wasn't disputing that. Yes not many earn salaries right around the mean or median, but half earn salaries of more than 72k, which doesn't seem too terrible. Again, I'm not saying things are great out there, especially ITE, but the idea that most first year lawyers earn only 40-50k is inaccurate.


That was during the boom and the data only accounts for roughly half the 50,000 graduates each year.

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jcl2
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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby jcl2 » Wed Jan 27, 2010 5:09 pm

rayiner wrote:
jcl2 wrote:I wasn't disputing that. Yes not many earn salaries right around the mean or median, but half earn salaries of more than 72k, which doesn't seem too terrible. Again, I'm not saying things are great out there, especially ITE, but the idea that most first year lawyers earn only 40-50k is inaccurate.


That was during the boom and the data only accounts for roughly half the 50,000 graduates each year.


Hey, didn't you read the last three posts we have reached consensus.

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rayiner
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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby rayiner » Wed Jan 27, 2010 5:12 pm

The 2009 NLJ250 survey contains some good data:

In addition to laid-off associates, the decline reflects would-be first-year associates whose start dates law firms deferred. Of the 250 firms on the list, 113 reported that they deferred a total of 2,784 associates. That figure represents 42% of the 6,636 law graduates who would have been in the incoming first-year associate class. The average number of associates deferred per firm was 25.


So those 6,636 C/O 2009 folks given offers did OCI in 2007, and represent the absolute peak of the boom. The 3,849 associates who actually started work probably better-represents the actual number of NLJ250 associate positions available in the non-bubble economy.

Now, let's use the higher figure. That's enough NLJ250 associate positions for roughly 15% of total law school graduates each year.

Now, there are high-paying firms who aren't in the NLJ250. However, these firms are smaller firms (inherently --- the NLJ250 is a ranking of firms by size), and thus inherently hire a lot fewer people. So while there might be a lot of firms paying $100k+ that aren't in the NLJ250, if they just hire a few associates each year, or more commonly, don't hire fresh graduates at all, then they're not going to add dramatically to the number of available jobs.

Of course in this economy, even 15% is optimistic. Using the 3,849 number, we're talking more like 8%, maybe 10% when you factor in all the non-NLJ firms that pay high salaries...

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Nom Sawyer
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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby Nom Sawyer » Wed Jan 27, 2010 5:13 pm

jcl2 wrote:
rayiner wrote:
jcl2 wrote:I wasn't disputing that. Yes not many earn salaries right around the mean or median, but half earn salaries of more than 72k, which doesn't seem too terrible. Again, I'm not saying things are great out there, especially ITE, but the idea that most first year lawyers earn only 40-50k is inaccurate.


That was during the boom and the data only accounts for roughly half the 50,000 graduates each year.


Hey, didn't you read the last three posts we have reached consensus.


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subgdubb
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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby subgdubb » Wed Jan 27, 2010 5:16 pm

you people are all a bunch of assholes

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jonas586
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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby jonas586 » Wed Jan 27, 2010 5:23 pm

subgdubb wrote:you people are all a bunch of assholes

What do you mean, you people?
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subgdubb
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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby subgdubb » Wed Feb 03, 2010 11:33 pm

you people are just a bunch assholes who don't know what you're talking about

Renzo
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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby Renzo » Wed Feb 03, 2010 11:58 pm

subgdubb wrote:you people are just a bunch assholes who don't know what you're talking about

Thanks for your meaningful contribution. It's posters like you that make TLS special.

Kobe_Teeth
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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby Kobe_Teeth » Thu Feb 04, 2010 12:13 am

If I'm on the better half of $72,000, I'll be happy.

I'll be really curious as to what next year's median will be. I'll go ahead and predict a slight decline.

Also, keep in mind, in 2006, the median was $62,000.

Furthermore, if you get your loans through the government, the $40,000-$65000 jobs are probably PI and your loans can be paid off rather quickly through IBR. Even if you're not classified as PI in the eyes of IBR you still have a cap of 25 (possibly 20) years of paying a student loan payment that is rather fairly based on your discretionary spending.

I'm not trying to pain a rosy picture here, just add some factors to think about.

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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby Renzo » Thu Feb 04, 2010 12:24 am

Kobe_Teeth wrote:If I'm on the better half of $72,000, I'll be happy.

I'll be really curious as to what next year's median will be. I'll go ahead and predict a slight decline.

Also, keep in mind, in 2006, the median was $62,000.

The median moved because pretty much all the smaller market biglaw firms/offices moved from 145k to 160k, to match the major market rate. But there are actually less above-median jobs than 2006. That's why the median is not a good indicator of anything.

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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby Kobe_Teeth » Thu Feb 04, 2010 12:26 am

Renzo wrote:
Kobe_Teeth wrote:If I'm on the better half of $72,000, I'll be happy.

I'll be really curious as to what next year's median will be. I'll go ahead and predict a slight decline.

Also, keep in mind, in 2006, the median was $62,000.

The median moved because pretty much all the smaller market biglaw firms/offices moved from 145k to 160k, to match the major market rate. But there are actually less above-median jobs than 2006. That's why the median is not a good indicator of anything.


Wouldn't that affect the average? (genuine not sarcastic)

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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby Renzo » Thu Feb 04, 2010 12:34 am

Kobe_Teeth wrote:
Renzo wrote:
Kobe_Teeth wrote:If I'm on the better half of $72,000, I'll be happy.

I'll be really curious as to what next year's median will be. I'll go ahead and predict a slight decline.

Also, keep in mind, in 2006, the median was $62,000.

The median moved because pretty much all the smaller market biglaw firms/offices moved from 145k to 160k, to match the major market rate. But there are actually less above-median jobs than 2006. That's why the median is not a good indicator of anything.


Wouldn't that affect the average? (genuine not sarcastic)

Yes. But there were jobs lost on both sides of the median (obviously, in an economy with 10% unemployment). As an overly-general rule, the big midsize firms (if that even makes sense) have been the best performing during the downturn, relatively speaking. These are the firms that were paying 145k 2 years ago, and are now paying 160k; they have also cut hiring less drastically than the big firms (again, in relative terms and as a broad generalization). This is why the bimodal distribution has become more pronounced as compared to 2006/2007, and the median has shifted up slightly, while top market salaries haven't moved.

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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby Kobe_Teeth » Thu Feb 04, 2010 12:41 am

Renzo wrote:Yes. But there were jobs lost on both sides of the median (obviously, in an economy with 10% unemployment). As an overly-general rule, the big midsize firms (if that even makes sense) have been the best performing during the downturn, relatively speaking. These are the firms that were paying 145k 2 years ago, and are now paying 160k; they have also cut hiring less drastically than the big firms (again, in relative terms and as a broad generalization). This is why the bimodal distribution has become more pronounced as compared to 2006/2007, and the median has shifted up slightly, while top market salaries haven't moved.


Ok, the jobs being lost on both sides of the distribution makes sense because I assume/heard that small firms got murdered because of the downturn. That would definitely move the median, especially because big firms and medium firms of all types of medium hired just not nearly as much (and some not at all and some cut of course just not as much proportionally). That makes sense. But, secondary market big firms upping their starting salaries does almost nothing to the median.

I still have confidence I end up on the better half of $72,000. :D

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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby Renzo » Thu Feb 04, 2010 12:51 am

Kobe_Teeth wrote:
Renzo wrote:Yes. But there were jobs lost on both sides of the median (obviously, in an economy with 10% unemployment). As an overly-general rule, the big midsize firms (if that even makes sense) have been the best performing during the downturn, relatively speaking. These are the firms that were paying 145k 2 years ago, and are now paying 160k; they have also cut hiring less drastically than the big firms (again, in relative terms and as a broad generalization). This is why the bimodal distribution has become more pronounced as compared to 2006/2007, and the median has shifted up slightly, while top market salaries haven't moved.


Ok, the jobs being lost on both sides of the distribution makes sense because I assume/heard that small firms got murdered because of the downturn. That would definitely move the median, especially because big firms and medium firms of all types of medium hired just not nearly as much (and some not at all and some cut of course just not as much proportionally). That makes sense. But, secondary market big firms upping their starting salaries does almost nothing to the median.

I still have confidence I end up on the better half of $72,000. :D

Once you pointed it out, it was a silly-sounding thing to say. I should have explained myself better the first time. I've made a couple confused posts tonight. Must be time to go stop pretending I'm working and go to sleep...

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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby monkeyboy » Thu Feb 04, 2010 3:44 am

Renzo wrote:
Xiaolong wrote:School? Class rank? Which market were they looking in? What kind of jobs were they trying to get?

Regional market with two schools (one T1, one T2), some went to each. Can't speak to class rank, and any legal job. The only success stories were one person who had an unrelated MA and went to an academic (non-profesorrial) research job and one guy who got a job as a non-tenure track lecturer at a community college after working for 2 years as basically a paralegal at a slip-and-fall firm. Even those who returned to the field I was working in weren't favored for promotion because of their degrees.

Now again, what doors has your JD opened for you? If you're going to call people out for lack of evidence, it would be nice if you had some to support your position.


Alex, I'll take cities for $1200. What is Seattle?

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Reinhardt
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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby Reinhardt » Thu Feb 04, 2010 4:31 am

Rather than "T14 or bust," it might be more helpful to say "Decent grant aid or bust." The definition of decent changes depending on which school you're considering. I'll admit that it's less catchy than "T14 or bust" though.

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PDaddy
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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby PDaddy » Thu Feb 04, 2010 4:36 am

runn3rs wrote:You can get a 160K job from almost any school. The same high-paying jobs are available to the top 80% of Yale grads, top 40% of UVA grads, top 20% of BC grads, top 5% of Tulane grads, and Top 1% of Hofstra grads. Some jobs like SCOTUS clerkship, some DOJ stuff, and other select jobs will be nearly impossible for even the top grad from some schools but if you only want a high-paying corporate job you can get it from almost any school. You take a gamble when you go to a lower-ranked school because you have to be in a higher percentage of your class.


Your percentages are off. 60-70% of Yale grads (many go into academia, PI or clerkships), 50% of UVA grads, 15-20% of Tulane grads, and 3-5% of Hofstra grads (depending on the year).

Remember, many "top" students will eschew BigLaw, so the opportunities will go those deeper in the classes. This is why, if 70% of Yale grads get into Biglaw, one can literally finish at the bottom and get $160K. If a school places it's top-15% into BigLaw, it is possible for someone finishing in the top-20-25% to get a BigLaw job.

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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby Renzo » Thu Feb 04, 2010 11:29 am

monkeyboy wrote:
Renzo wrote:
Xiaolong wrote:School? Class rank? Which market were they looking in? What kind of jobs were they trying to get?

Regional market with two schools (one T1, one T2), some went to each. Can't speak to class rank, and any legal job. The only success stories were one person who had an unrelated MA and went to an academic (non-profesorrial) research job and one guy who got a job as a non-tenure track lecturer at a community college after working for 2 years as basically a paralegal at a slip-and-fall firm. Even those who returned to the field I was working in weren't favored for promotion because of their degrees.

Now again, what doors has your JD opened for you? If you're going to call people out for lack of evidence, it would be nice if you had some to support your position.


Alex, I'll take cities for $1200. What is Seattle?

Excellent guess, but no. Right size city, roughly right caliber of schools... For all practical purposes here the cities could be interchangeable.

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Re: Has it come to this?

Postby JCougar » Fri Feb 05, 2010 4:37 pm

PDaddy wrote:
runn3rs wrote:You can get a 160K job from almost any school. The same high-paying jobs are available to the top 80% of Yale grads, top 40% of UVA grads, top 20% of BC grads, top 5% of Tulane grads, and Top 1% of Hofstra grads. Some jobs like SCOTUS clerkship, some DOJ stuff, and other select jobs will be nearly impossible for even the top grad from some schools but if you only want a high-paying corporate job you can get it from almost any school. You take a gamble when you go to a lower-ranked school because you have to be in a higher percentage of your class.


Your percentages are off. 60-70% of Yale grads (many go into academia, PI or clerkships), 50% of UVA grads, 15-20% of Tulane grads, and 3-5% of Hofstra grads (depending on the year).

Remember, many "top" students will eschew BigLaw, so the opportunities will go those deeper in the classes. This is why, if 70% of Yale grads get into Biglaw, one can literally finish at the bottom and get $160K. If a school places it's top-15% into BigLaw, it is possible for someone finishing in the top-20-25% to get a BigLaw job.


Exactly. I don't see enough people around here making that distinction. The very top graduates at many of the top schools choose clerkships, prestigious PI, or academia instead of Biglaw, so the percentage of people going into Biglaw from a certain school is not necessarily indicative of how many people could get Biglaw if they wanted.

I'm sure there is response bias in salary reporting as well, but I'm not totally sure its as pronounced as some people make it out to be. More who don't report salary are likely at the lower end, but I don't find it impossibly unlikely that a chunk of people making $100-160K are simply too busy to fill out surveys or think that it's none of your beeswax what they are making.

Furthermore, what is not often addressed is that the lower modal spike in that graph is probably largely filled by graduates in the bottom 80% of the class from T3-T4 schools, and the bottom 50-60% of the class from T2 schools. Those account for more than half of all law school graduates. There are midlaw positions out there. There's not many of them, but I would think you can find them if you are top 30-10% of your class from T2 or top 50-25% of your class for T1. I think a lot of the T1 schools that are best in state offer good access to jobs in the top firms of smaller to medium-sized cities in that state.

The T14 or bust business is a little extreme. Remeber that simply going to a T1 school puts you in the top 25% of all students right off the bat. If you finish in the top 50% of your class from one of those schools, that puts you in the top 10-20 or so percent depending on your school within the T1. Furthermore, a non-negligible number of graduates from these schools who report salaries will not desire to head to cities where the COL is similar to New York or even Chicago. They will be living where a $70K salary is awesome, especially for your first year being a professional.

Even with the response bias considered, in a normal economic year if only 12% or so get $160K salaries, there's another 12% that get salaries between $70K and $145K (not a big number for such a wide range, but not small enough to ignore, either). This doesn't even account for the percentage, albiet small, who pursue prestigious clerkships, academia, higher-paying corporate positions, go on to pursue an LL.M., or prestigious PI work that qualifies for LRAP.

If you're in the top 25% of overall graduates once law school is done, you're probably in decent to great shape somewhat regardless of your debt. That's not necessarily an optimistic picture, but that's also not necessarily as pessimistic as T14 or bust. Then there's another group who got in-state tuition and/or at least a half scholarship to where they went. I have no idea how big this group is outside the 25% I've already talked about, but many of those people probably aren't doing too poorly, either.




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