There are those who love practicing law. David Boies, who's interviewed in FORTUNE, is one of them. Likely he would have entered and stayed with the profession (that's how those kind think of it, not as a business) no matter the level of compensation.
But more of those studying to become lawyers or already in the legal sector think a lot about money. Some have to because of student loan debt or putting their children through college. The associates in the latter group are receiving disappointing information from the National Association of Law Placement (NALP), reports Karen Sloan in THE NATIONAL LAW JOURNAL.
NALP found that, in general, with the exception of major metro areas like New York and Washington D.C., the starting salary for entry-level associates had dipped beneath the $170,000 level that was just about holding in 2007. Legal media such as Abovethelaw.com expected that to rise and keep rising as BigLaw competed for talent during a boom. Then the boom turned to bust and then most of the legal sector has been unable to achieve whatever paradigm shift would be necessary to adjust to a buyer's market, with flat demand, increasing client churn, and push-back on the billable hour.
As a result, not surprisingly, fewer than half of BigLaw firms start associates at even $160,000. At midsized firms, which some reports show are thriving, there has been a salary bounce upward from the $120,000s to about $135,000. At SmallLaw, with the lawyer headcount between 2 and 25, the median salary is $70,750.
The rest of 2012 is not promising for revenue growth and expense creep is eating into profits. One wonders what the Class of 2013 will be started at.