Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

(Applications Advice, Letters of Recommendation . . . )
LegalBiology

New
Posts: 52
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2018 11:12 pm

Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby LegalBiology » Thu Jan 24, 2019 7:52 pm

so my question basically stems from confusion about ABA employment data I'm looking at and advice I see on this website

median salaries at schools like Notre Dame, GW and Wake Forest are over 100K. and the consensus i've seen on TLS is that T14 or T20 above average for "biglaw", anything else you have to be top 10-25% or whatever of your class to get "biglaw"

but are there people from these non-T14 schools that don't get "BIGLAW" but are making 100K+ starting salary? are there jobs NOT in biglaw that law grads are getting that pay this much?

thanks for the clarification

cavalier1138

Platinum
Posts: 5422
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2016 8:01 pm

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby cavalier1138 » Thu Jan 24, 2019 8:52 pm

Where are you seeing this salary data. I can't find salary reports from LST or on any of those schools' sites, so it's difficult to tell what you're basing those numbers on.

Npret

Gold
Posts: 1883
Joined: Mon Jan 23, 2017 11:42 am

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby Npret » Thu Jan 24, 2019 9:15 pm

I don’t know where that data is from either.

To answer your question- no, big law isn’t measured by 6 figure salary. Biglaw is measured by the size of firm, complexity and sophistication of work and clients, etc.

There are small plaintiff firms that make more than biglaw lawyers. Salary isn’t determinative.

I’m still curious why so many questions you post are regarding money and nothing about the actual job? Or even law school? It’s a mistake to calculate your salary before you’ve even been accepted or taken a class, but plenty of 0Ls do it.

QContinuum

Moderator
Posts: 1540
Joined: Mon Aug 07, 2017 9:52 am

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby QContinuum » Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:08 pm

To OP's question, looking at median salary is wildly misleading because legal salaries are bimodal, meaning there is a cluster of folks making "NYC market" ($180-190k) and a cluster of folks making 5 figures. So almost no one is actually making the median low-six-figure salary.

BobLoblaw18

New
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2018 3:30 pm

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby BobLoblaw18 » Thu Jan 24, 2019 11:42 pm

QContinuum wrote:To OP's question, looking at median salary is wildly misleading because legal salaries are bimodal, meaning there is a cluster of folks making "NYC market" ($180-190k) and a cluster of folks making 5 figures. So almost no one is actually making the median low-six-figure salary.

Maybe this is true in bigger coastal markets but it's not true everywhere FYI. My midwestern city has about 10ish firms that are biglaw by size (only a few amlaw 100 and one V100 but it's a smaller mkt) and they all pay 115-140 or so to 1st year associates.

Npret

Gold
Posts: 1883
Joined: Mon Jan 23, 2017 11:42 am

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby Npret » Fri Jan 25, 2019 8:30 am

BobLoblaw18 wrote:
QContinuum wrote:To OP's question, looking at median salary is wildly misleading because legal salaries are bimodal, meaning there is a cluster of folks making "NYC market" ($180-190k) and a cluster of folks making 5 figures. So almost no one is actually making the median low-six-figure salary.

Maybe this is true in bigger coastal markets but it's not true everywhere FYI. My midwestern city has about 10ish firms that are biglaw by size (only a few amlaw 100 and one V100 but it's a smaller mkt) and they all pay 115-140 or so to 1st year associates.

How many 1st years do they hire every year? Are they all from the same school? I think it will still end up as only a few people are making that salary.

Npret

Gold
Posts: 1883
Joined: Mon Jan 23, 2017 11:42 am

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby Npret » Fri Jan 25, 2019 8:36 am

https://static01.nyt.com/images/2012/07 ... log480.jpg

This is an old graph from 2012 but it illustrates the bimodal distribution of salaries.
If anyone wants to research NALP - they should have a current graph or at least they used to use graphs in their reports for each year.

Npret

Gold
Posts: 1883
Joined: Mon Jan 23, 2017 11:42 am

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby Npret » Fri Jan 25, 2019 9:22 am

Here’s the NALP link I could find quickly. Scroll to see the graphs basically don’t change over time. There is probably more info on NALP but it may be password protected.

https://www.nalp.org/salarydistrib

User avatar
LSATWiz.com

Partner
Posts: 292
Joined: Mon Jun 12, 2017 10:37 pm

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby LSATWiz.com » Fri Jan 25, 2019 12:05 pm

Most employed lawyers outside of public service will earn six-figures a few years out, but six figure starting salaries outside of big law are quire rare.

Npret

Gold
Posts: 1883
Joined: Mon Jan 23, 2017 11:42 am

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby Npret » Fri Jan 25, 2019 12:38 pm

UBETutoring wrote:Most employed lawyers outside of public service will earn six-figures a few years out, but six figure starting salaries outside of big law are quire rare.

Do you have data on this? I haven’t seen it. My feeling is a lot of lawyers work in small firms and don’t hit 6 figures a few years out. This is based on information I’ve seen over the years from the City Bar association in New York. Surprising for me as a biglaw attorney, the great majority of lawyers work in small firms, at least in New York.

User avatar
LSATWiz.com

Partner
Posts: 292
Joined: Mon Jun 12, 2017 10:37 pm

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby LSATWiz.com » Fri Jan 25, 2019 1:07 pm

Npret wrote:
UBETutoring wrote:Most employed lawyers outside of public service will earn six-figures a few years out, but six figure starting salaries outside of big law are quire rare.

Do you have data on this? I haven’t seen it. My feeling is a lot of lawyers work in small firms and don’t hit 6 figures a few years out. This is based on information I’ve seen over the years from the City Bar association in New York. Surprising for me as a biglaw attorney, the great majority of lawyers work in small firms, at least in New York.

No, just others I know. I'm sure many don't, but even contract attorneys get close to 100. There is a big difference between making 100k and 200k+. In all honesty, it would be difficult to survive in New York with 100k pre-tax income, and sticker loan repayment. You're basically making $65 net, minus $30k in loan repayment a year so you're living off $35,000 a year in a city where studios rent out for about $2,500 a month. There are ways to survive sure, but you aren't living an upper middle class lifestyle on that money. At $50,000, my heart goes out to them.

BobLoblaw18

New
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2018 3:30 pm

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby BobLoblaw18 » Fri Jan 25, 2019 1:37 pm

Npret wrote:
BobLoblaw18 wrote:
QContinuum wrote:To OP's question, looking at median salary is wildly misleading because legal salaries are bimodal, meaning there is a cluster of folks making "NYC market" ($180-190k) and a cluster of folks making 5 figures. So almost no one is actually making the median low-six-figure salary.

Maybe this is true in bigger coastal markets but it's not true everywhere FYI. My midwestern city has about 10ish firms that are biglaw by size (only a few amlaw 100 and one V100 but it's a smaller mkt) and they all pay 115-140 or so to 1st year associates.

How many 1st years do they hire every year? Are they all from the same school? I think it will still end up as only a few people are making that salary.

There are about five schools in the area that most people come from but a few of the firms go out of their way to hire T14 students from the area too. But you make a fair point--yes out of the total number of new attorneys entering practice these type of firms I'm talking about hire only a small percentage. Without looking up all the exact numbers on NALP I'd guess probably 45-70 incoming associates per year across the city, so smaller than a single incoming class at a big NYC office.

My point was just that while you're right about bigger markets being either 180/190 or 50-60ish, in smaller midwestern markets really it's still bimodal but the two modes are 135ish and like 40-50sh or something. The elusive and fabled "midlaw" job is still largely non-existent.

Npret

Gold
Posts: 1883
Joined: Mon Jan 23, 2017 11:42 am

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby Npret » Fri Jan 25, 2019 1:43 pm

UBETutoring wrote:
Npret wrote:
UBETutoring wrote:Most employed lawyers outside of public service will earn six-figures a few years out, but six figure starting salaries outside of big law are quire rare.

Do you have data on this? I haven’t seen it. My feeling is a lot of lawyers work in small firms and don’t hit 6 figures a few years out. This is based on information I’ve seen over the years from the City Bar association in New York. Surprising for me as a biglaw attorney, the great majority of lawyers work in small firms, at least in New York.

No, just others I know. I'm sure many don't, but even contract attorneys get close to 100. There is a big difference between making 100k and 200k+. In all honesty, it would be difficult to survive in New York with 100k pre-tax income, and sticker loan repayment. You're basically making $65 net, minus $30k in loan repayment a year so you're living off $35,000 a year in a city where studios rent out for about $2,500 a month. There are ways to survive sure, but you aren't living an upper middle class lifestyle on that money. At $50,000, my heart goes out to them.

The assumption that most employed lawyers make 6 figures a few years out seems grossly inaccurate to me when I see small firms starting people at $40,000 or less. My feeling is that idea is rooted in the years of fraudulent marketing of law schools. That fraudulent marketing resulted in law school transparency being formed (thank you Kyle!) and the now required ABA disclosures.

Most people seem to still believe that young lawyers make 6 figures. Possibly the thinking is that if biglaw pays $190,000, the next firms pay $150,000 or so. As mentioned, some smaller market firms may pay that, but it’s a big chasm to the next mode of salaries.

I bet with salary increases the bimodal salary distribution is even more stretched out.

User avatar
LSATWiz.com

Partner
Posts: 292
Joined: Mon Jun 12, 2017 10:37 pm

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby LSATWiz.com » Fri Jan 25, 2019 1:52 pm

Npret wrote:
UBETutoring wrote:
Npret wrote:
UBETutoring wrote:Most employed lawyers outside of public service will earn six-figures a few years out, but six figure starting salaries outside of big law are quire rare.

Do you have data on this? I haven’t seen it. My feeling is a lot of lawyers work in small firms and don’t hit 6 figures a few years out. This is based on information I’ve seen over the years from the City Bar association in New York. Surprising for me as a biglaw attorney, the great majority of lawyers work in small firms, at least in New York.

No, just others I know. I'm sure many don't, but even contract attorneys get close to 100. There is a big difference between making 100k and 200k+. In all honesty, it would be difficult to survive in New York with 100k pre-tax income, and sticker loan repayment. You're basically making $65 net, minus $30k in loan repayment a year so you're living off $35,000 a year in a city where studios rent out for about $2,500 a month. There are ways to survive sure, but you aren't living an upper middle class lifestyle on that money. At $50,000, my heart goes out to them.

The assumption that most employed lawyers make 6 figures a few years out seems grossly inaccurate to me when I see small firms starting people at $40,000 or less. My feeling is that idea is rooted in the years of fraudulent marketing of law schools. That fraudulent marketing resulted in law school transparency being formed (thank you Kyle!) and the now required ABA disclosures.

Most people seem to still believe that young lawyers make 6 figures. Possibly the thinking is that if biglaw pays $190,000, the next firms pay $150,000 or so. As mentioned, some smaller market firms may pay that, but it’s a big chasm to the next mode of salaries.

I bet with salary increases the bimodal salary distribution is even more stretched out.

Agreed. If you notice, I said with a few years experience. Most people who I know that started with $40k jobs and were consistently employed eventually landed something much higher.

QContinuum

Moderator
Posts: 1540
Joined: Mon Aug 07, 2017 9:52 am

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby QContinuum » Fri Jan 25, 2019 2:45 pm

UBETutoring wrote:
Npret wrote:The assumption that most employed lawyers make 6 figures a few years out seems grossly inaccurate to me when I see small firms starting people at $40,000 or less. My feeling is that idea is rooted in the years of fraudulent marketing of law schools. That fraudulent marketing resulted in law school transparency being formed (thank you Kyle!) and the now required ABA disclosures.

Most people seem to still believe that young lawyers make 6 figures. Possibly the thinking is that if biglaw pays $190,000, the next firms pay $150,000 or so. As mentioned, some smaller market firms may pay that, but it’s a big chasm to the next mode of salaries.

I bet with salary increases the bimodal salary distribution is even more stretched out.

Agreed. If you notice, I said with a few years experience. Most people who I know that started with $40k jobs and were consistently employed eventually landed something much higher.

I'm not so confident about the "much higher" thing. Where are these SmallLawyers finding these six-figure jobs a few years out? Do they all go in-house at a F500, or into BigFed? Do their small firms jack up their pay from $40k (or less!) to >$100k?

I'm sure there are some who manage - here on TLS we've had a few threads about former SmallLawyers who've managed to network their way all the way up to BigLaw - but I don't think it's at all true to say that the median SmallLawyer will be making >$100k within several years of graduating.

heartlessjester

New
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2018 5:02 pm

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby heartlessjester » Sun Feb 17, 2019 5:30 am

IP law if you have the right background is an exception to the bimodal distribution. There are many boutiques that pay in the 140s. Heck you can make 6 figures as a patent agent without even going to law school if you have the right STEM background though you'll want to get a JD to improve payscale

QContinuum

Moderator
Posts: 1540
Joined: Mon Aug 07, 2017 9:52 am

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby QContinuum » Sun Feb 17, 2019 1:43 pm

heartlessjester wrote:IP law if you have the right background is an exception to the bimodal distribution. There are many boutiques that pay in the 140s. Heck you can make 6 figures as a patent agent without even going to law school if you have the right STEM background though you'll want to get a JD to improve payscale

For patent prosecution, yes, but the vast majority of 0Ls here aren't in that boat, and it hardly ever makes sense for anyone to specifically go to the effort of targeting that boat because it is so much more time-efficient to retake the LSAT and get into a decent law school than to acquire the background needed for patent prosecution. For example, for the life sciences, to get that 6-figure patent agent gig, you'd have to go all the way through earning a Ph.D., which - in the life sciences - usually takes 5+ years. 4 years is rare and less than 4 is basically unheard of. Much, much easier to just buckle down and retake the LSAT.

User avatar
Sprinkler

New
Posts: 25
Joined: Tue Feb 05, 2019 1:57 pm

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby Sprinkler » Sun Feb 17, 2019 3:41 pm

Hard to call a firm BigLaw if their starting pay is under $160k

User avatar
UVA2B

Gold
Posts: 3521
Joined: Sun May 22, 2016 10:48 pm

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby UVA2B » Sun Feb 17, 2019 3:50 pm

Sprinkler wrote:Hard to call a firm BigLaw if their starting pay is under $160k


Possibly fair, but there are a litany of secondary markets, especially in the Midwest, where almost all of the biglaw firms pay under $160k. There’s a bunch of regional firms in there, but hard to scoff at a regional big firm in the Midwest paying $120-140k starting when they also have name recognition in their markets.

User avatar
Sprinkler

New
Posts: 25
Joined: Tue Feb 05, 2019 1:57 pm

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby Sprinkler » Sun Feb 17, 2019 5:08 pm

Are you trying re-define BL? 190k to start did not begin in Wichita, Springfield, etc., it came about at BL firms (NYC/DC/LA). Most places have “best on town” firms that are great but not paying BL salaries or bonuses.

The Lsat Airbender

New
Posts: 64
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:34 pm

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby The Lsat Airbender » Sun Feb 17, 2019 6:15 pm

A firm with hundreds of lawyers that pays first-year associates massive salaries for the region is obviously biglaw, even if the exact number varies from place to place for exogenous reasons. Many would much rather make $120-160k in Nashville or Minneapolis than $190k in NYC or Chicago, lifestyle and other factors notwithstanding,because taxes and CoL elide the difference in raw pay, especially if you're trying to raise kids.

I'm not saying there aren't meaningful differences between coastal V50 offices and the handful of offices you'll find in a medium-large American city, but the difference isn't captured by the term "biglaw", which denotes firm size and connotes well-heeled clientele.

User avatar
UVA2B

Gold
Posts: 3521
Joined: Sun May 22, 2016 10:48 pm

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby UVA2B » Mon Feb 18, 2019 3:13 pm

Sprinkler wrote:Are you trying re-define BL? 190k to start did not begin in Wichita, Springfield, etc., it came about at BL firms (NYC/DC/LA). Most places have “best on town” firms that are great but not paying BL salaries or bonuses.


Nope, just using the standard large score metric of 100+ attorneys, and I'm specifically saying first year associate salary is a bad way of defining Biglaw, or at best, controversial definition of biglaw.

There is plenty of ripe and unending (and frankly tiresome) disagreement whether Biglaw should be reflected by only the biggest and most financially healthy firms in the US/abroad, measured by various metrics (PPP, RPL, gross revenue, etc.), but if what you're trying to capture, from a law student's perspective, is a "good outcome" of a firm, you necessarily have to expand that definition to reflect those jobs at firms that do substantive work, represent sophisticated clients, and pay an amount that will allow a new graduate (and rising associate) enough to cover the basic costs of their education and their COL. So while making $190k and the standard market scale is one way to measure that, it's pretty easily arguable that a student graduating from WUSTL and working at Polsinelli in KC after graduation is equally well-off following graduation making somewhat less than the WUSTL graduate who managed to get a $190k job at White and Case making $190k starting in NYC. That's not even to comment on either firm specifically, but just saying that trying to capture Biglaw with the first year associate salary metric is every bit as arbitrary as, and I would argue more arbitrary because not all markets pay that amount, as the attorney head count metric that tries to capture those who graduate from law school and end up in positions to grow professionally while making enough to sustain livelihood in their given market. Neither metric is perfect and has some things it gets wrong (attorney head count sometimes captures low-paying ID and personal injury type firms that capture a bigger market but pay much less, and $190k starting salary misses all of the firms that are generally big and sophisticated and train attorneys to be quality attorneys while ensuring their livelihood in secondary markets).

heartlessjester

New
Posts: 15
Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2018 5:02 pm

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby heartlessjester » Mon Feb 18, 2019 9:32 pm

QContinuum wrote:
heartlessjester wrote:IP law if you have the right background is an exception to the bimodal distribution. There are many boutiques that pay in the 140s. Heck you can make 6 figures as a patent agent without even going to law school if you have the right STEM background though you'll want to get a JD to improve payscale

For patent prosecution, yes, but the vast majority of 0Ls here aren't in that boat, and it hardly ever makes sense for anyone to specifically go to the effort of targeting that boat because it is so much more time-efficient to retake the LSAT and get into a decent law school than to acquire the background needed for patent prosecution. For example, for the life sciences, to get that 6-figure patent agent gig, you'd have to go all the way through earning a Ph.D., which - in the life sciences - usually takes 5+ years. 4 years is rare and less than 4 is basically unheard of. Much, much easier to just buckle down and retake the LSAT.


Meh idk, you could just major in EE or CS. That doesn't take all that much effort tbh and it is same time commitment as a normal JD.
Source: Top 5 EE program MS in ECE with BS in Physics

objctnyrhnr

Moderator
Posts: 685
Joined: Sat Apr 13, 2013 2:44 am

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby objctnyrhnr » Mon Feb 18, 2019 10:36 pm

Biglaw is like 400 plus Attorneys firmwide. It’s literally BIGlaw. I suppose I just don’t really see how there’s a debate on the topic. High salary often corresponds, but definitely doesn’t factor into the definition.

The Lsat Airbender

New
Posts: 64
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:34 pm

Re: Does "biglaw" mean the same as 6 figure salary?

Postby The Lsat Airbender » Mon Feb 18, 2019 10:47 pm

objctnyrhnr wrote:Biglaw is like 400 plus Attorneys firmwide. It’s literally BIGlaw. I suppose I just don’t really see how there’s a debate on the topic. High salary often corresponds, but definitely doesn’t factor into the definition.


I feel like that definition, on the other hand, is just a tad too loose. "Sophisticated clients" is an important qualifier. If "400+ attorneys" is the only criterion then we're including Morgan & Morgan-type shops that nobody actually considers when using the term "biglaw".

Edit: That definition also excludes firms like WLRK (243 attorneys) that people almost always do include in their definition of biglaw. I think the most reasonable definition is a flexible three-legged stool of 1) firm size, 2) associate salaries, and 3) client sophistication - biglaw firms almost always have two and usually have three of those qualities.



Return to “Law School Admissions Forum?

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot], cavalier1138 and 12 guests