Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Your first year salary and job description largely dictate MOST attorney's earning potential for lif

I mean we all know a FEW ppl like GIGS will make 17k startin vohod07/30/17
The salary distribution becomes less bimodal and unequal as themapmaster07/30/17
The extra 120k the biglaw dude made aged 25-29 is worth like vohod07/30/17
Isn't that true for any job? The CPA working for a small bus fettywap07/30/17
Yes this applies in every field: losers lose. However mos vohod07/30/17
Idk, hard to say that when laterals often make a 50% jump. S shikes07/30/17
Losers lose and women are crazy. Nothing new was added b isthisit07/30/17
I recall many friends making the jump from 70k to 105k-115k lolwutjobs07/30/17
What was their Height, GPA, Major, and phenotype? vohod07/30/17
With all due respect, that's not a really big jump, especial bucwild07/31/17
I started in an ID mill making 50k in 2008 upon graduating f notiers07/31/17
If you don't mind me asking, what did your career trajectory goorange88807/31/17
What are you doing now? I ask because I also started in an I ollieg7507/31/17
Seems like there's a lot more mobility in the non-legal worl 6figuremistake07/31/17
there is much iron in this man's words. I hope lemmings are williamdrayton07/31/17
in the financial world, it's even worse. Job postings will dingbat07/31/17
The quickest way to increase your earnings? Develop your own mrtor07/31/17
I gun for HIPAA compliance and rev cycle ACA compliance but vohod07/31/17
I increased my salary through a combination of: a) job moves notiers07/31/17
It's interesting to see prestige brought up. I left my old c barelylegal07/31/17
My wife and I have both more than doubled our salaries since barneystinson07/31/17
I don't doubt that law is overly obsessed with prestige but loblawyer07/31/17
I went from a guvmint job that was 60k to another one for 90 spaghetti08/01/17
My income has gone up considerably since law school. I would legalwiter108/01/17
While Legalwriter's view is probably how a lot of non-Biglaw lionelhutz08/01/17
Exactly. Start at A or B, ascend by X over the course of you onehell08/01/17
Junior associates make $180k in biglaw now. 2breedbares08/01/17
And the people who get the $180K biglaw, I assume, tend to b anonattempt08/01/17
Most of the junior associates we get have significant studen interveningrights08/01/17
This is 100% consistent with my peers. I know a few people w spaghetti08/02/17
And I think that's exactly how biglaw wants it to work. Exce onehell08/02/17
My experience has been that the salaries of most poop lawyer confused1l9308/03/17
The anecdotes seem to go both ways. For every account I've h 6figuremistake08/03/17
My point wasn't to dispute that a mid career solo outperform vohod08/03/17
C/O 2014 here... I made very little when in law practice. I flyer1408/03/17

vohod (Jul 30, 2017 - 11:31 am)

I mean we all know a FEW ppl like GIGS will make 17k starting and move to 120k.

But lets be honest and admit that if you start at 40k you are in for a fairly bleak life earnings wise compared to the person making 60k or 120k+ starting.

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themapmaster (Jul 30, 2017 - 11:57 am)

The salary distribution becomes less bimodal and unequal as time goes on. The great majority of biglaw associates don't make biglaw partner and take big pay cuts when leaving biglaw. At the same time the attorneys not getting into biglaw increase their salary significantly by gradually climbing the government pay scale or making decent money as a small law partner or climbing the corporate ladder. My point is not that biglaw associates won't make a lot more money on average than those that don't get biglaw; it's that pay become more equal as time goes on

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vohod (Jul 30, 2017 - 12:30 pm)

The extra 120k the biglaw dude made aged 25-29 is worth like 300% more than a 40k bro's 95k at age 60. What with interest gained on investment or interest spared on aggressive debt repayment.

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fettywap (Jul 30, 2017 - 11:49 am)

Isn't that true for any job? The CPA working for a small business for $30,000 a year is never going to get a job with a big accounting firm and get wealthy.

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vohod (Jul 30, 2017 - 12:32 pm)

Yes this applies in every field: losers lose.

However most accountant aren't averaging $145,000 debt at 6.8% to enter Accountancy

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shikes (Jul 30, 2017 - 2:20 pm)

Idk, hard to say that when laterals often make a 50% jump. Starting at a midlaw firm for 50k and laterally in 3 years when you're at ~65k could net you six figures at another midlaw firm easily. I see this happen over and over and over in my market. A girl I worked with as an entry level started with our firm @ 70k and laterally after 9 months to 100k with another midsize firm. This isn't uncommon based on my experience.

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isthisit (Jul 30, 2017 - 2:44 pm)

Losers lose and women are crazy.

Nothing new was added by this thread.

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lolwutjobs (Jul 30, 2017 - 8:14 pm)

I recall many friends making the jump from 70k to 105k-115k pretty easily

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vohod (Jul 30, 2017 - 8:37 pm)

What was their Height, GPA, Major, and phenotype?

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bucwild (Jul 31, 2017 - 8:59 am)

With all due respect, that's not a really big jump, especially after 2 or 3 years.

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notiers (Jul 31, 2017 - 7:57 am)

I started in an ID mill making 50k in 2008 upon graduating from a 4th Tier school. Flash forward to 2017, and I'll probably clear $180k this year. While I agree that this is the exception and not the rule I know lots of others that started similarly and are in the $130 range. It's not impossible. Just somewhat improbable. I will say this - the stress and hustling needed to increase earning as I have takes a toll - for sure. More so than in other professions I think.

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goorange888 (Jul 31, 2017 - 8:07 am)

If you don't mind me asking, what did your career trajectory look like in order to get to this point? Did you bounce around to a number of firms and/or change practice areas?

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ollieg75 (Jul 31, 2017 - 11:34 am)

What are you doing now? I ask because I also started in an ID mill making 50k...when I graduated in 2013. I've since moved to a new office, still doing ID but I wouldn't consider it a mill. Smaller firm, partners are easy to get along with, now making 60k with a bonus structure that realistically allows me to net 70-80k/year. Decent money for me because I'm in a smallish midwest market, but the hours I have to put in to get that are also starting to take a toll.

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6figuremistake (Jul 31, 2017 - 8:24 am)

Seems like there's a lot more mobility in the non-legal world because most other fields aren't as prestige obsessed. If you don't start off in BigLaw, you're probably never going to end up there - and that can trickle down to Biglaw lateral positions such as general counsel offices at larger corporations.

For example, as someone who doesn't practice, I was considering a non-legal role at a larger regional corporation. Aside from wanting someone with a BA, the requirements in the job listing only pertained to work experience and relevant skills. In contrast, there was also an associate counsel job listed at the same time, which did want someone with considerable work experience, but it also explicitly stated the candidate needed to have worked for a certain type of firm, attended a top school, and ranked in the top part of the class.

Outside of law, aside from entry level positions, nobody cares about your grades or "pedigree". A loser in another field can gain ample experience and eventually have a pretty decent career working for a well known company.

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williamdrayton (Jul 31, 2017 - 9:57 am)

there is much iron in this man's words. I hope lemmings are paying attention.

I now work in Pharmaceuticals and you will never see a job advertisement stating that you must have worked for an "equivalent" pharma company, and must have attended a certain type of school with a certain class rank. it's all about skills and experience and in some cases relevant certification.

law is extremely unique in its rigid career hierarchy and the individual arcs within it.

I don't have any peer-reviewed studies to support my theory on the prestige/pedigree obsession but here goes: law is alone among professions (I'm speaking U.S. only) that not only has no undergraduate prerequisites, but more importantly, has no clinical requirements for licensure. In the absence of any such prerequisites and/or requirements, school prestige and class rank become the sole sorting mechanism for evaluating candidates. Even in medicine, the guy who went to Southwest State U. for undergrad still had to pass organic chemistry, biology, calculus etc. and if he went to East Bumblefook Medical School he still had to do his standard residency, internship, rotations etc.

I remember my wife considered becoming a state certified substance abuse peer counselor (not a licensed therapist, mind you). These jobs pay about $15-20 an hour. even to get that state certification required hundreds of hours of clinical experience. (not to mention becoming a beautician, barber and a bunch of other licensed occupations).

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dingbat (Jul 31, 2017 - 12:20 pm)

in the financial world, it's even worse. Job postings will often post that a top-tier education is required, but more importantly, they'll require that you worked at a bulge-bracket firm.

Basically, you need to have GS, JPM, ML, Citi, CS, etc. on your resume, or you're not even in contention.
Rather than it being a prestige thing, it's more like a seal of approval - anyone who's worked at one of those firms is presumed to be qualified (even if half of them are complete idiots), whereas if you worked at a boutique, the employer would need to verify your skills, and in this day and age, why bother, when there are plenty of candidates previously vetted by the major players available?

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mrtor (Jul 31, 2017 - 10:22 am)

The quickest way to increase your earnings? Develop your own book of business or move. Attorneys who originate have significant upward mobility. However, outside of BigLaw, most firms will not volunteer significant pay increases for replaceable worker bees. Market forces demand that simple jobs be performed at the lowest cost. It is very difficult to make gains when you're only earning an extra $1-3k/year. Fortunately, moving around can lead to more senior and more specialized roles commanding higher pay.

It is important to look outside of law as well. Healthcare and certain business sectors are booming. They are increasingly paying their people very well while looking to minimize outside legal expenses.

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vohod (Jul 31, 2017 - 10:26 am)

I gun for HIPAA compliance and rev cycle ACA compliance but Im competing against regional midlaw associates. Not sure its more than Pure Luck to get to that gig from my terlet of a career.

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notiers (Jul 31, 2017 - 5:42 pm)

I increased my salary through a combination of: a) job moves (3 total); b) working my way into more lucrative practice areas with higher billing rates; and c) developing a book of business (a work in progress that can go south at a moment's notice).

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barelylegal (Jul 31, 2017 - 8:01 pm)

It's interesting to see prestige brought up. I left my old company (small private) this past year for a new opportunity at a Fortune Global 500 with a decent bump in pay and a lot more internal opportunities to advance but at the end of the day if I was to be entirely honest I just wanted to have the Company's name on my resume.

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barneystinson (Jul 31, 2017 - 8:59 pm)

My wife and I have both more than doubled our salaries since graduating from LS 5 years ago. I've been in house at the same company (going from $60k to a little over $120k)..wife started at non-profit legal aid around $40k and is now in-house in unrelated industry making $105k. Neither of us are extraordinary lawyers by any means.

We may be outliers in the legal field, but I don't think starting job and salary in law is any different from other careers in how hard it is to make more money and "advance"...I think there are prestigious companies in every field (e.g. Google; Goldman Sachs) that care a ton about grades and schools, but many other companies that ignore those factors and care more about personality, fit, and experience.

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loblawyer (Jul 31, 2017 - 10:29 pm)

I don't doubt that law is overly obsessed with prestige but agree with the above, it's not unique just to us. I have friends in tech and the powerhouse companies (google, amazon etc.) do care about your degree and what school you went to. Perhaps it helps/haunts other professionals less over time, but for the first few jobs pedigree is definitely a thing in tech and finance at minimum.

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spaghetti (Aug 1, 2017 - 1:13 am)

I went from a guvmint job that was 60k to another one for 90k over five years (I went from high COL to low COL so it's hard to gauge real $).

I recently got a mid law job that pays $150 and will be $165 next year with a likely $10k bonus.

I know a handful of other people who did the same thing. The one thing we all have in common was having a niche and getting decent experience.

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legalwiter1 (Aug 1, 2017 - 8:22 am)

My income has gone up considerably since law school. I would love to see a more comprehensive study done on income. The BLS numbers are not very helpful. ATL does a salary survey for solo and small law firms which is somewhat helpful. Some state bars will do a survey. A lot of your Big Law folks wash out and few make partner. I know some former big law lawyers who have gone one to other things. Working 90 hours a weeks is no life. Jones Day is nicknamed "Jones Night and Day" because those are the hours you will need to work. A lot of big law folks end up on substance, divorced, and very unhappy. I make more per hour than big law associates with a much better quality of life. I think region and cost of living are also huge factors when talking about income. I live in a small town and I would need to make three times my income in a big city by comparison. I graduated around the middle of my class from a cheap state law school in flyover country.

2002 income (first year out of law school): $40,000/year
2016 income: $145,000

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lionelhutz (Aug 1, 2017 - 11:50 am)

While Legalwriter's view is probably how a lot of non-Biglaw types want to view the world, I don't think it is reality for most. I did 8 years in Biglaw at 3 firms and while at times the hours sucked, it certainly never was 90 hours a week. Billing was usually 1900-2100 hours.

Long term biglaw is not a great life and at all firms the partners are actually working more than the assoicates. However the exit options for going in house are what makes it worthwhile. mid-level in house jobs pay at least $150-175k, plus bonuses, stock and other perks that can add up so you are not really taking a horrible paycut from being a mid-level associates and the hours are usually nice. Plus hitting a GC job can bring your comp up significantly.

I have now been practing almost 20 years and my total comp is about 8-10x what it was when I started in Biglaw. While those who don't start in Biglaw might see their comp go up 3-5x over that period, it is from a much lower beginning number. I think the bimodal distribtion of compensation probably tends to persist over a legal career more often than not. Of course plenty of people fall off the Biglaw/In house wagon and it can be hard to get back on, but for those who stay on the train its not a bad ride.

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onehell (Aug 1, 2017 - 4:25 pm)

Exactly. Start at A or B, ascend by X over the course of your career.

If A>B, then A+X > B+X.

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2breedbares (Aug 1, 2017 - 4:27 pm)

Junior associates make $180k in biglaw now.

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anonattempt (Aug 1, 2017 - 5:32 pm)

And the people who get the $180K biglaw, I assume, tend to be the one who went to their law school with a significant scholarship, and therefore are able to save more of the biglaw money early on. It's not just the pay gap that gets bigger and bigger, its the net worth gap too :/

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interveningrights (Aug 1, 2017 - 6:44 pm)

Most of the junior associates we get have significant student loans. They're pretty aggressive about paying it off. The firm also has some programs to help the associates manage their debt. Attrition is really high for millennials once they're debt free.

Most of my peers who did not have loans were able to do other things they actually enjoyed: non-profit, DA, PD, in-house, or start-ups. A few even went into consulting.

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spaghetti (Aug 2, 2017 - 1:31 am)

This is 100% consistent with my peers. I know a few people who quit big law almost immediately after paying off their debts. An acquaintance of mine actually put in his two weeks notice right after pushing submit on his last loan payment.

I'd say about 9 of 10 friends of mine in big law pay off their loans as much as possible in the first 2-3 years while simultaneously figuring out how and when they'll leave. The exceptions are the rare individuals who work with partners they like and the few who remain gung-ho about making partner.

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onehell (Aug 2, 2017 - 3:06 pm)

And I think that's exactly how biglaw wants it to work. Except for the high pay, it's like a medical residency. That's why they refer to their associates as "classes" and hire every year. Biglaw isn't a career for most; it's a training program/hazing ritual you graduate from, with the objective of paying off your debt and getting that golden name on your resume. I've heard many former biglaw folks refer to themselves as an "alum" of whatever firm it was, for good reason.

A very few will be on the partner track but for most you get the best training there is and the chance to pay off your debt fast, and in exchange they own you for the 3-5 years you're expected to be there. Everyone knows there's a "sweet spot" when your exit opportunities are at their best and the headhunters start calling. Leave too early or stay too long and you're screwed.

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confused1l93 (Aug 3, 2017 - 2:14 am)

My experience has been that the salaries of most poop lawyers go waaaay up over time (they start very low). This assumes they go on their own and do ok for themselves. Despite JDU dogma, most mid career solos do better than the majority of the U.S population.

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6figuremistake (Aug 3, 2017 - 8:23 am)

The anecdotes seem to go both ways. For every account I've heard of someone killing it years later as a solo, there's at least one account of another middle aged attorney hustling like a dog to bring in enough business to keep the lights on.

When I was an "intern" at a PI firm, we were seated in some converted storage closet and shared the space with a miserable family law attorney, who was willing to spend an hour on the phone doling out free advice to someone who didn't live in state just in the hope that he might be able convert some business. (Of course, the fact that he had his law license suspended at one point for accidentally killing a pedestrian probably didn't help.)

Anecdotes aside, not everyone wants to run their own business or invest the years of toil it takes to even get to that point.

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vohod (Aug 3, 2017 - 9:05 am)

My point wasn't to dispute that a mid career solo outperforms the average American--the average American has no college degree and is an employee working maybe 40 hours a week MOST months of the year. The average American does NOT have $145,000 in student loans at 6.8% interest (the average lawyer graduating in the mid 2010s does).

I started at 40k, so ending at 150k would be a crazy huge career jump. But that initial salary dictates a much different life than an attorney starting at 130-180k and ending around 157k.

If you practice in a rural area like me, a salary over 100k is frankly unrealistic unless you transition from law practice to something else. If that were to happen I'm not sure you could classify the person as a lawyer for salary purposes.

The rub is that $145,000 at 6.8% is the same: Whether in NYC biglaw or taking every case through the door in the Great Plains.

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flyer14 (Aug 3, 2017 - 9:24 am)

C/O 2014 here... I made very little when in law practice. I make far more outside of it, and the trajectory is only up from here.

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