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Another Picture Worth 1,000 Words

July 2008 

Last year, NALP made headlines in the blogosphere with its now famous double bell curve graph showing the bimodal distribution of full-time salaries for the Class of 2006. Predictably enough, given the run-up of starting salaries at large law firms that happened during 2007, the graph depicting the distribution of salaries for the Class of 2007 still has two peaks but is even more dramatic.  This graph (shown below) clearly shows the sharp peak at $160,000 where large firm starting salaries have settled for now, and contrasts with the relatively symmetric double peaks of last year’s curve.

What this image makes visually manifest is the two very different legal employment markets that law school graduates face.  While 16% of starting salaries were $160,000, far more, 38%, were $55,000 or less.  The first peak in the graph reflects salaries of $40,000 to $60,000, with salaries of $40,000 and $50,000 each accounting for about 10% of salaries.  Collectively, salaries in the $40,000 - $60,000 range (approximately the total area reflected under the left peak) accounted for 42% of salaries.  Salaries reflected under the right peak, including the smaller bulge over $145,000, accounted for 22% of salaries.  This bimodal distribution of starting salaries for law school graduates was not always the case however.  As recently as 1999, starting salaries for law school graduates assumed a much more normal bell shaped curve with a single peak.  (See Salaries for New Lawyers: How Did We Get Here?, NALP Bulletin, January, 2008.) For more detailed information on the class of 2007, see the press release on the Jobs & JD's report for the Class of 2007 or order Jobs & JD's and Starting Salaries through the Bookstore.

Source:Jobs & JD's, Class of 2007

Note: The graph is based on 23,337 salaries. A few salaries above $200,000 are excluded for clarity.