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The employment news just keeps getting worse for freshly minted lawyers. Not only did fewer recent graduates land law firm jobs, as the National Association for Law Placement reported in June, but they also are earning less than their predecessors. A NALP report released on July 6 concluded that the median salary for the class of 2010 in full-time jobs as of February was $63,000 — $9,000 less than the $72,000 median salary reported by the class of 2009. The average salary for the class of 2010 also declined, to $84,111 from $93,454. When NALP adjusted its figures to account for the fact that high-earning graduates tend to report their salaries in larger numbers, the national average for the class of 2010 fell even more, to $77,333. It’s not that employers were paying less, said NALP Executive Director James Leipold. It’s that fewer recent grads were finding work at the large firms that pay the highest salaries. “Aggregate starting salaries fell because graduates found fewer jobs with the high-paying large law firms and many more jobs with the smallest law firms, those that pay the lowest starting salaries,” Leipold said. “No single legal employment sector really saw its starting salary change very much from the previous year.” For instance, slightly fewer than 51 percent of the employed members of the class of 2010 found law firm jobs, compared to nearly 56% the year before. Not only that, more recent graduates were working at smaller firms: 53 percent of them were at firms with 50 or fewer lawyers. That figure was 46 percent for the class of 2009. The median law firm salary remained significantly higher than the overall median for the graduating class, at $104,000. Still, that figure was down $26,000 from the $130,000 law firm median reported the previous year. When adjusted for reporting inconsistencies, the average law firm salary was $93,748. According to NALP, the number of firms offering starting salaries of $160,000 has dropped. There were no changes in the median pay for government and public interest jobs. The median starting salary for government jobs was $52,000, while recent graduates in public interest jobs earned a median $42,900. Overall, the percentage of recent graduates taking private practice jobs dropped by nearly 5 percent.

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