Starting Salaries For Law Students are BiModal — If Not Bipolar

Bill Henderson has a really interesting chart up at Empirical Legal Studies: Distribution of 2006 Starting Salaries: Best Graphic Chart of the Year which shows a very bimodal distribution of starting lawyer saleries. As he says,

The sample includes—in order of size—private practice (55.8%), business (14.2%), government (10.6%), judicial clerks (9.6%), public interest (5.4%), and other (2.8%). Half of the graduates make less than the $62,000 per year median—but remarkably, there is no clustering there. Over a quarter (27.5%) make between $40k-$55k per year, and another quarter (27.8%) have an annual salary of $100K plus.

If the chart were a flipbook of the last twenty years, the first mode would be relatively stationary, barely tracking inflation, while the second mode would be moving quickly to the right—i.e., the salary wars. In fact, because of the recent jump to $160K in the major markets, the second mode has already moved even more to the right.

Lots of other interesting comments there too.

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5 Responses to Starting Salaries For Law Students are BiModal — If Not Bipolar

  1. MiamiGrad says:

    Add U Miami to the list 2nd tier of law schools with insanely high tuition (Not to mention high cost of living and the low pay scales in the area) and subsequent bankrupt grads.

  2. michael says:

    Yes, it is expensive: It’s a private school with a relatively modest (although fast-growing) endowment.

    That means it supports itself by tuition, as it always has done.

    As far as I know, most private law schools charge similar tuition, while most state schools are a lot cheaper. Why, in a free-market economy, do adults — for all our students are adults — choose to pay these enormous fees?

    It is because they think they’ll get something of value. Part of that, undoubtedly, is a future income stream. Part of it, I hope, is a chance to do something interesting, and perhaps even important. And part of that, I very much hope, is a good education.

  3. howie says:

    I’m another UM grad, from a few years ago who kind of agrees w/ the first poster. Most of the grads I know are struggling to make ends meet in Miami unless they were on law review or attended on full scholarship. Part of it is they couldn’t get into the top tiered state schools because of one reason or another. Part of it is they couldn’t get the scholarships to UM because they didn’t realize the importance of the LSAT or applied too late. And part of it is they didn’t graduate at the top of their class at UM. Most of the people I know came into law school pretty laid back and nice. Now, facing those student loan payments, many are bitter and just want to pay them off so that they can move on to something else. It is a huge gamble to come to law school and fund it with student loans if you aren’t competitive or don’t know what you really want. Personally, I enjoyed law school at UM because I enjoy asking questions. I was exposed to many new perspectives. I loved learning to think like a lawyer, and I am happy UM didn’t stress anything practicaI because I enjoy contemplating the esoteric. I think the experience was worth the expensive price tag even though there may be few practical payoffs. People might be happier if they thought of the UM legal education as a valuable end in and of itself and not as a means to some boring legal job they are forced to take to earn cash. By going to law school and counting on graduating and making tons of money while happily practicing law, a large number of people are setting themselves up for failure. Many come out and can’t find jobs for a very long while and have hefty student loan payments to make. Some UM grads are even forced to work at boring temp legal jobs to pay back for the experience. Maybe UM isn’t really the proper law school for those who want practical hands on training and the ability to make a living right after graduating. Brooklyn might be a better choice at a similar price and ranking. Who knows?

  4. Michael says:

    Well, I dare anyone who’s taken my Administrative Law class to say that it’s not practical. People regularly come back after they graduate to thank me because it was so useful. (I admit that doesn’t happen much for my other classes.)

    And, strange as it may sound, I would argue that even my Jurisprudence class is very practical — a lot of it is about how to make arguments.

    But there’s one thing you said I totally agree with: law school is too much work and too expensive for (most) people who don’t know why they’re going. And too many people just drift into law school because they can’t think what else to do, or their families push them. Some of them, the fortunate ones, discover that they love it; the majority of this group, though, suffer, don’t do so well because they’re just not into it enough, and frequently remain unhappy after they graduate.

  5. Esquirechic says:

    It’s hard to imagine the number of hours these new attorneys will be forced to accumulate in order to justify such a big salary. If they only knew now that they are in fact being “purchased”. From one lawyer to another!

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