What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

A forum for applicants and admitted students to ask law students and graduates about law school and the practice of law.
ksllaw
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What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby ksllaw » Fri Aug 17, 2012 6:18 pm

Hello everyone,

This is a question I have for anyone from 1L to JD. I'm curious about what salary expectations you guys have/had for life as a JD after law school? If anyone doesn't mind, it would be great as well to hear about what types of school loan levels (if any) you guys have/had.

You can think of this as sort of an informal poll to give perspective to us OL's. 8)

(p.s. Feel free to offer ranges instead of concrete numbers, as that would probably be more reasonble and interesting to see as well.)

Thank you all very much! We appreciate it!!!

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SuperCerealBrah
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby SuperCerealBrah » Fri Aug 17, 2012 7:07 pm

ksllaw wrote:Hello everyone,

This is a question I have for anyone from 1L to JD. I'm curious about what salary expectations you guys have/had for life as a JD after law school? If anyone doesn't mind, it would be great as well to hear about what types of school loan levels (if any) you guys have/had.

You can think of this as sort of an informal poll to give perspective to us OL's. 8)

(p.s. Feel free to offer ranges instead of concrete numbers, as that would probably be more reasonble and interesting to see as well.)

Thank you all very much! We appreciate it!!!




I will be happy with any legal job that pays $30,000 or more starting. Years after, I of course hope to be earning more.

call saul
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby call saul » Fri Aug 17, 2012 7:10 pm

160K or bust

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dingbat
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby dingbat » Fri Aug 17, 2012 7:19 pm

call saul wrote:160K or bust

Plus bonus, of course

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Bronte
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby Bronte » Fri Aug 17, 2012 8:04 pm

ksllaw, you've posted a number of threads that seem to misunderstand the way legal hiring works. Most gainful legal employment is obtained at the end of a law student's first year summer. Big law firms hire using a system called "on campus interviews." They go to top law schools at the end of the first year summer, looking to hire people for their second summer internship, called a summer associateship.

The vast majority of these summer associate positions turn into full time jobs via an offer for full-time employment extended at the end of that second summer. Thus, by the end of the second year summer, many law students know what they will be making when they graduate. Given that post-summer offer rates near 100% at most firms, many students know what they will be making to a near certainty at the end of their first year summer.

Most of these firms are in New York, and almost all the New York firms pay the same rate: $160,000 a year to first year associates plus an annual bonus, about $7,500 for first years. Large firms in Chicago and LA usually pay on this same scale. Large firms on this model in smaller markets usually pay $145,000 or a somewhat lower six figure salary.

When people are talking about the crisis in the legal market, they're primarily talking about the shortage in employment at these types of firms that ensued following the financial crisis. Because the clients of these big law firms are big businesses--especially big businesses in the financial sector--the law firms themselves were hit hard during the financial crisis. This caused a reduction in the "big law" jobs available to graduates of top law schools, causing them to flee to other forms of employment, like public interest, government, and small firm work and to secondary markets. This trickled down and negatively affected lower-ranked law schools.

Outside of employment at these big law firms, the legal market is fairly thin. A small percentage of law students go on to work at prestigious public interest and government positions, but governments are in crisis as well. Small and midsize law firms generally hire lawyers with at least a few years of experience. Thus, the market is pretty grim for people who do not get big law or do not get good government employment. Note that those who do get government employment will usually have the rest of their loan balance paid down by their law school via some form of loan repayment assistance program (LRAP).

To answer your question directly, I am a rising 3L who will be making $160,000 plus bonus starting next fall. I, like numerous other people on these boards, have received a full time offer from one of these big law firms after my summer associate program ended. In the next month, many rising 2Ls on these boards will be getting summer associate positions that will likely turn into these same $160,000 jobs.

Then there're the people who do not get big law. It's very contentious--on these boards and elsewhere--how many of them there are and what they end up doing. But by all accounts there are a lot of them.

Gorki
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby Gorki » Fri Aug 17, 2012 9:53 pm

There are graphs around that indicate salary is bimodal. A large chunk of people make 120-160k, a large(r) chunk make 30-60k. I assume all of the higher range are practicing attorneys. I have personal doubt that a large junk of those making 30-60k are actually in a position where a JD is required. As stated above, this is because there is a shortage on legal hiring and even the smallest firms are facing the unbelievable chance to pick candidates for low paying small firm jobs who would have been biglaw secure 10-20 years ago.

My advice is regardless of your optimism, do not go to any school outside the T30 for sticker unless you have a unique circumstance (Common wisdom on this forum, which holds some serious merit would say: do not bother w/law school if you can't break T30). Do not go to a provincial/regional only law school, regardless of its rank or supposed prestige, if you have 0 ties to that area.

Keep in mind many users on this forum are t14 w/biglaw SAs/offers, but there are many many more law students out there who will never communicate with a big law firm outside of screening interview.

ksllaw
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby ksllaw » Fri Aug 17, 2012 10:47 pm

Bronte, I appreciate your corrections and explanations. They were very helpful!

I ask a lot of these career trajectory type questions here as a potential law student - I'm giving myself one or two years to make up my mind - because I'm come from a modest family background. My parents are working-class and my social network does not encompass any well-positioned attorneys that could aid my career at this time (I do know of a few new associates in the LA and D.C. markets, but they're just getting started). Law school for me would literally be a potentially life-changing decision, given the expected student loan debt I would be taking on (sans a hefty scholarship from a school that I would want to attend, of course) and my current and family financial positioning. And so I wish to gather as much detailed information and critical perspective as I can before making any huge heap in the direction of law school.

I appreciate the time you took to help elucidate and better inform me of various aspects of law school and the current economics of the legal landscape. I am taking notes from all the nice bits of truth and wisdom I can glean from others with more experience and knowledge than myself at the moment! Thanks so much. :)

By the way, congratulations to you on the new offer! Sounds very exciting and I hope you do well and enjoy NYC!
Last edited by ksllaw on Sat Aug 18, 2012 1:37 am, edited 1 time in total.

ksllaw
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby ksllaw » Fri Aug 17, 2012 10:58 pm

Gorki wrote:There are graphs around that indicate salary is bimodal. A large chunk of people make 120-160k, a large(r) chunk make 30-60k. I assume all of the higher range are practicing attorneys. I have personal doubt that a large junk of those making 30-60k are actually in a position where a JD is required. As stated above, this is because there is a shortage on legal hiring and even the smallest firms are facing the unbelievable chance to pick candidates for low paying small firm jobs who would have been biglaw secure 10-20 years ago.

My advice is regardless of your optimism, do not go to any school outside the T30 for sticker unless you have a unique circumstance (Common wisdom on this forum, which holds some serious merit would say: do not bother w/law school if you can't break T30). Do not go to a provincial/regional only law school, regardless of its rank or supposed prestige, if you have 0 ties to that area.

Keep in mind many users on this forum are t14 w/biglaw SAs/offers, but there are many many more law students out there who will never communicate with a big law firm outside of screening interview.



Thank you, Gorki. That, too, was very helpful. And I agree...the statistics I've come across also show a bimodal distribution of JD incomes. It's not something that I had know about until recently. I really wish there was more of a middle-ground (assuming the graphs are reasonably accurate), as that would make it less of a "gamble" for someone like myself (from humble roots and without connections into the legal world that could gaurantee post-graduate employment) to attend law school.

Thank you again, Gorki, and best wishes for you as well in your law career!!
Last edited by ksllaw on Fri Aug 17, 2012 11:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

lukertin
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby lukertin » Fri Aug 17, 2012 10:59 pm

One of my coworkers reported that the vast majority of his classmates, having passed the bar, do nothing more than take on the shit from the attorney referral service. Not only is the work from such sources generally crap, but since they're newly minted lawyers they get the bottom of the barrel.

Expected salary: Whatever cents your "clients" can scrape together.

ksllaw
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby ksllaw » Fri Aug 17, 2012 11:12 pm

lukertin wrote:One of my coworkers reported that the vast majority of his classmates, having passed the bar, do nothing more than take on the shit from the attorney referral service. Not only is the work from such sources generally crap, but since they're newly minted lawyers they get the bottom of the barrel.



It's really been tough, Lukertin. I'm sorry to hear and I appreciate the perspective.
:(
I do know of one JD acquaintance, who went from working at a bank doing compliance work to now doing document reviews on temporary contracts that do not pay enough for him to make ends meet unfortunately. I was told by a mutual friend that he's had to cohabitate with his girlfriend, who pays their daily living expenses because his meager income mostly goes to paying back his student loans from law school. It's been tough for him. I believe he's thinking of opening up a solo practice sometime this year to try to figure out how to make a long-term living.

I certainly hope the eocnomy gets better sooner rather than later! I do wonder, in the meantime, if there are some success stories people may know of for those not doing big law, PI, or government work and had ventured into an alternative career path? Those would be interesting to hear about and also possibly learn from. :)

Kiwi917
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby Kiwi917 » Sat Aug 18, 2012 10:48 pm

Based on my experience, I would suggest taking the LSAT, applying to a lot of schools, and seeing how you do in terms of scholarships. I worked for a few years before going back to school, and at the beginning of the process, I decided I was only willing to go to law school if it was a good enough school and I got a substantial enough scholarship to graduate without much debt. I ended up going to a T14 with a great scholarship, saved up a decent amount in the years working beforehand, and will cover the rest with 2L summer earnings. My expectation was that if I graduated with low enough debt, I could always go back to my old career and not worry about loans. For that reason, I was unwilling to go to any school at sticker price except maybe HYS.

You ultimately just have to decide how much of a financial risk you are comfortable with, if you really want to be a lawyer. I knew I would not be happy practicing law (even biglaw) if I had $200k+ in loans hanging over my head, but I'm fairly risk-averse. I also worried about whether I would be able to handle the stress of school and get good grades if I was under the extra pressure about huge loans, so I really think going to the school with the better scholarship was a good choice in that respect (I could have gone to a higher-ranked school for sticker).

Lastly, you mention how your background is factoring into your decision - just as an example, I came from an average, non-URM background without any financial or networking resources from family, but have not found that to be a problem so far. Your school and grades will matter much more if you decide to go for a biglaw job. Feel free to pm me if you have any questions.

09042014
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby 09042014 » Sat Aug 18, 2012 11:47 pm

dingbat wrote:
call saul wrote:160K or bust

Plus bonus, of course


NYC to 190

ksllaw
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby ksllaw » Sun Aug 19, 2012 1:26 am

Kiwi917 wrote:Based on my experience, I would suggest taking the LSAT, applying to a lot of schools, and seeing how you do in terms of scholarships. I worked for a few years before going back to school, and at the beginning of the process, I decided I was only willing to go to law school if it was a good enough school and I got a substantial enough scholarship to graduate without much debt. I ended up going to a T14 with a great scholarship, saved up a decent amount in the years working beforehand, and will cover the rest with 2L summer earnings. My expectation was that if I graduated with low enough debt, I could always go back to my old career and not worry about loans. For that reason, I was unwilling to go to any school at sticker price except maybe HYS.

You ultimately just have to decide how much of a financial risk you are comfortable with, if you really want to be a lawyer. I knew I would not be happy practicing law (even biglaw) if I had $200k+ in loans hanging over my head, but I'm fairly risk-averse. I also worried about whether I would be able to handle the stress of school and get good grades if I was under the extra pressure about huge loans, so I really think going to the school with the better scholarship was a good choice in that respect (I could have gone to a higher-ranked school for sticker).

Lastly, you mention how your background is factoring into your decision - just as an example, I came from an average, non-URM background without any financial or networking resources from family, but have not found that to be a problem so far. Your school and grades will matter much more if you decide to go for a biglaw job. Feel free to pm me if you have any questions.



Thank you, Kiwi917.

I really wish I had more energy tonight to write more...it's been such an exhausting day...but I had to just say a quick thanks for your perspective and very wise example of a "safe" path to law school. ...I greatly appreciated it and will be taking into consideration those pointers you gave as I go about planning my own path. And, yes, I'll first have to take the LSAT before any of these other things start to matter. :wink: But it's still be helpful to get people's advice. ...Now, I just have to go out and do my best on the upcoming LSAT.

It's been a tiring day...so I just don't have the mental stamina to write much more, but I'm very thankful for your thoughts and perspective. Good luck in finishing up your law school career too!! BEst.

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Sheffield
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby Sheffield » Sun Aug 19, 2012 1:54 am

Bronte wrote:To answer your question directly, I am a rising 3L who will be making $160,000 plus bonus starting next fall. I, like numerous other people on these boards, have received a full time offer from one of these big law firms after my summer associate program ended.

If I understand this right. You picked up a 2L SA. Then you were offered. Given your experience, for those rising 2Ls (at median) who do not land a 2L SA, how much more difficult is it to land a SA after their second year (even with improved grades)?

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JamMasterJ
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby JamMasterJ » Sun Aug 19, 2012 2:29 am

Desert Fox wrote:
dingbat wrote:
call saul wrote:160K or bust

Plus bonus, of course


NYC to 190

cannot wait for this

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Bronte
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby Bronte » Sun Aug 19, 2012 11:23 am

Sheffield wrote:
Bronte wrote:To answer your question directly, I am a rising 3L who will be making $160,000 plus bonus starting next fall. I, like numerous other people on these boards, have received a full time offer from one of these big law firms after my summer associate program ended.

If I understand this right. You picked up a 2L SA. Then you were offered. Given your experience, for those rising 2Ls (at median) who do not land a 2L SA, how much more difficult is it to land a SA after their second year (even with improved grades)?


It's exponentially more difficult. The entire system is designed around 2L OCI. Some firms do 3L OCI, but it seems like they're mostly looking for people who did a 2L SA, got an offer, and are looking to change firms.

roofles
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby roofles » Mon Aug 20, 2012 9:28 pm

edited: didn't want to out myself with the previous post.

Rising 3L that expected at least 115-135k and just accepted an offer for between 115-135k. Long story short, learn from my mistakes and expect 160k.

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solotee
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby solotee » Wed Aug 29, 2012 11:28 pm

Modest background: blue-collar working family, first generation college grad. Did not now any attorneys before deciding to go to law school.


First practice LSAT: 147
Official LSAT score: 165

Expectation on salary before law school: $100,000
Total debt incurred after 3 years of law school: $80,000


Salary coming out of law school: $130,000

Caveat: I made this calculated decision after much careful deliberation. Use your modest background as a motivator to do the absolute best in law school so that your grades put you in a competitive position for a good job. That's what I did, and made law school my #1 priority my first year of law school. I then got a big firm job my first summer, which led to an offer for second summer, which turned into a permanent offer.

About 15% of my class earns this salary or higher. The rest are hustling for jobs. So I came into law school cognizant of the fact that I may invest all this money, time, and energy and end up unemployed. Make sure you do all your homework before entering law school.

On the brighter side, law school has changed my life immensely. I am now living the life I never would have imagined living: which is living comfortably without stressing about money.

Good luck.

09042014
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby 09042014 » Wed Aug 29, 2012 11:30 pm

NYC to 190

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Bronte
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby Bronte » Wed Aug 29, 2012 11:36 pm

Desert Fox wrote:NYC to 190


CHI to follow with 50% better COL?! Or both just stay at 160...

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bk1
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby bk1 » Wed Aug 29, 2012 11:37 pm

Desert Fox wrote:NYC to 190


Good to know that 11 days hasn't changed your mind on this.

bigfootseattle
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby bigfootseattle » Sun Sep 02, 2012 1:25 am

solotee wrote:Modest background: blue-collar working family, first generation college grad. Did not now any attorneys before deciding to go to law school.


First practice LSAT: 147
Official LSAT score: 165

Expectation on salary before law school: $100,000
Total debt incurred after 3 years of law school: $80,000


Salary coming out of law school: $130,000

Caveat: I made this calculated decision after much careful deliberation. Use your modest background as a motivator to do the absolute best in law school so that your grades put you in a competitive position for a good job. That's what I did, and made law school my #1 priority my first year of law school. I then got a big firm job my first summer, which led to an offer for second summer, which turned into a permanent offer.

About 15% of my class earns this salary or higher. The rest are hustling for jobs. So I came into law school cognizant of the fact that I may invest all this money, time, and energy and end up unemployed. Make sure you do all your homework before entering law school.

On the brighter side, law school has changed my life immensely. I am now living the life I never would have imagined living: which is living comfortably without stressing about money.

Good luck.



Where did you end up attending? I am from a similar background and I plan on treating law school with the same seriousness as you eluded to. My first practice test was a 151 and I am taking the real thing this Oct., shooting for at least a 165.

Thanks!

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rayiner
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby rayiner » Sun Sep 02, 2012 2:23 am

Bronte wrote:
Desert Fox wrote:NYC to 190


CHI to follow with 50% better COL?! Or both just stay at 160...


Not just COL, but taxes too. Net monthly pay for a first year ($160k+ $7.5k bonus) in NYC is ~$8,400/month. In Chicago it's $9,200. To have the same net pay, an NYC firm needs to pay a $25k bonus. What's also pretty shocking is that a first-year WLRK associate making 40% bonus is bringing home only around $1,000 more than a K&E associate working above-average (but less than WLRK) hours. That's even before accounting for cost of living. If both live in a modern high-rise near work, the WLRK associate has less money in his pocket just after paying rent, much less anything else.

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Bronte
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby Bronte » Sun Sep 02, 2012 1:33 pm

rayiner wrote:
Bronte wrote:
Desert Fox wrote:NYC to 190


CHI to follow with 50% better COL?! Or both just stay at 160...


Not just COL, but taxes too. Net monthly pay for a first year ($160k+ $7.5k bonus) in NYC is ~$8,400/month. In Chicago it's $9,200. To have the same net pay, an NYC firm needs to pay a $25k bonus. What's also pretty shocking is that a first-year WLRK associate making 40% bonus is bringing home only around $1,000 more than a K&E associate working above-average (but less than WLRK) hours. That's even before accounting for cost of living. If both live in a modern high-rise near work, the WLRK associate has less money in his pocket just after paying rent, much less anything else.


Amen.

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cahwc12
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Re: What Salary Expectations Do/Did You Have Post-Law?

Postby cahwc12 » Tue Sep 04, 2012 10:42 am

rayiner wrote:
Bronte wrote:
Desert Fox wrote:NYC to 190


CHI to follow with 50% better COL?! Or both just stay at 160...


Not just COL, but taxes too. Net monthly pay for a first year ($160k+ $7.5k bonus) in NYC is ~$8,400/month. In Chicago it's $9,200. To have the same net pay, an NYC firm needs to pay a $25k bonus. What's also pretty shocking is that a first-year WLRK associate making 40% bonus is bringing home only around $1,000 more than a K&E associate working above-average (but less than WLRK) hours. That's even before accounting for cost of living. If both live in a modern high-rise near work, the WLRK associate has less money in his pocket just after paying rent, much less anything else.


Could you elaborate on this please? I'm applyin for the 2013 cycle and don't understand these abbreviations (WLRK K&E). Are they well known chicago/nyc firms? Thanks.




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