How to make 160K+ right out of law school?

(Applications Advice, Letters of Recommendation . . . )

Posts: 51
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2018 11:12 pm

How to make 160K+ right out of law school?

Postby LegalBiology » Sat Apr 28, 2018 5:00 pm

So I am fairly new to the pre-law game so can someone explain this to me

I've heard you have to go into "big law" to make real money out of law school. How do you do this? If you go to a top 14, are you pretty much guaranteed a job at big law as long as your grades are decent? what if you go to a tier 2 school like USC Gould or BC, can you still get into big law and make money? Those school's "employment data" seem to suggest that the average income is the same (160+ for all those schools)

also, I have a b.s. in neuroscience from a top 20 undergrad. can I work in patent law in a "big law" firm and make 160+ right out of law school?

thanks for answering:)


Posts: 806
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2015 12:32 am

Re: How to make 160K+ right out of law school?

Postby sparkytrainer » Sat Apr 28, 2018 6:05 pm

Law is extremely bi-modal in salary distribution. Its either biglaw for 180k or everything else for 40-60k. There is legitimately zero in-between for new graduates.

Biglaw is extremely prestige-centric. The honest truth is there are 13 schools that give you a good chance at biglaw (the top 13). Georgetown gives you an alright chance, Texas an alright chance in Texas, and UCLA gives you an alright chance on the west coast. By alright, I mean 30-40%. In comparison, Duke and Columbia both give you an 85% chance, with the rest of the t13 falling in around 75-85%. Yale kids could go wherever they want, but a lot of them choose other things such as legal academia.

If you want a biglaw job, you need to go to a t13. Otherwise, you are banking you are going to be at the top of your class. That might sound easy, but law school is graded on a forced curve with your classmates. For example, if you take an exam and get 1 less point right than your classmates, all of a sudden you are at the bottom of your class in that subject. One bad class grade and you can be boned. If you are at a t13, there is much more wiggle room. At BC, one bad grade and you wont sniff biglaw.


Posts: 7
Joined: Fri Apr 20, 2018 3:59 am

Re: How to make 160K+ right out of law school?

Postby Junanman » Mon Apr 30, 2018 7:26 pm

I'd note that certain Tier 2 schools in their home market would be OK if you were a top student (maybe top 15%). e.g. USC is in a fairly large market of LA, and there are not many top law schools here other than UCLA, so USC punches above its weight for biglaw despite "T2" status.

Note that the $160k (isn't it $180k starting now?) is because of the lockstep compensation. All big law firms match each other in terms of salary to recruit top students, and this is typically driven by Cravath, a large NY law firm. Google around for the "Cravath scale" for more. Essentially, all big law firms will pay the same scale for the first 8 years, with variations on how they deal with making hours and below-hours bonuses and lots of variation in work culture.

The hardest part about deciding whether to go to law school for that biglaw salary is the uncertainty of being a top law student and whether you can deal with the misery of most biglaw experiences. Even for the top 14 schools (T14), you have to be in the top third of your class to have a good chance at biglaw. Your science degree will help if you really want to do patent law, since that's more of a niche, but you also have to be OK being a patent litigator or patent prosecutor, and likely will need to take the patent bar exam, which is an extra step. On top of that, biglaw firms tend to run associates into the ground with work, so once you graduate and are potentially saddled with debt, you may be stuck in a job you hate.

User avatar

Posts: 123
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2016 5:26 am

Re: How to make 160K+ right out of law school?

Postby BeeTeeZ » Tue May 01, 2018 4:13 am

T1 = 1-50
T2 = 51-100
T3 = 101-150
T4 = 151-200

Important to understand these terms when referenced.


Posts: 117
Joined: Mon Oct 13, 2014 4:19 pm

Re: How to make 160K+ right out of law school?

Postby ithrowds » Tue May 01, 2018 10:38 am

Junanman wrote:Even for the top 14 schools (T14), you have to be in the top third of your class to have a good chance at biglaw.

Mostly everything else you say is true, but to this point I will say that if you're in the ~75% of your class at a t13 - you have a good chance at biglaw considering you're an average interviewer and bid smartly (I.e. don't bid cravsth if you're in the bottom 25% of your class). I'm at a lower t13 and the I can count the people I know who didnt get biglaw on one hand, and often it wasn't so much grades as it was poor interviewing skills.


Posts: 102
Joined: Tue Aug 13, 2013 11:02 pm

Re: How to make 160K+ right out of law school?

Postby captainplanet » Fri May 04, 2018 3:51 pm

If you're patent bar eligible, many large law firms will hire from lower ranked schools. I know a person who was a software engineer and went to UC Hastings and had several offers. Since you're pre-law though, make sure you're also looking at the statistic saying that the vast majority of people in biglaw leave within 3-5 years.

Return to “Law School Admissions Forum?

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 10 guests