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With February bar results just out and recent graduates gearing up for the summer exam, initial salary reports for 2000 remain promising. “A lot of students got raises before they graduated,” says Beth S. Kirch, director of University of Georgia School of Law’s Legal Career Services. At Emory University, class of 2000 salaries range from $28,000 to $175,000. The lowest reported law firm salary is $36,000, says Steven N. Hargrove, assistant dean for career services at Emory’s School of Law. Compared to 1999, the 2000 numbers are vastly higher, says Hargrove. With 80 percent of the class of 2000 reporting, the average salary is $81,715. That’s $20,000 more than the class of 1999′s average of $61,490, a 33 percent increase. But while salaries at the top of the pay scale are growing, the same increases are not occurring at the other end of the spectrum, says Hargrove. “Only the highest salaries are going up,” says Hargrove. “The lowest salaries are staying the same. That’s stretching the rubber band at one end.” UGA’s Kirch agrees. “I don’t see the smaller firms scrambling to catch up at this point,” she says. “In the past, the big firms would lead the way and everyone else would rise over the next year or two.” Increases in starting salaries are nothing new, but driven by dot-com hiring competition and originating in Silicon Valley, this wave of soaring compensation has a decidedly 2000 twist. “The pressure seemed to be coming partly from the associates and partly from the market. In the �80s, a lot of the salaries were led by the New York firms and this [year's run-up] seemed to be led by the California firms — the Palo Alto groups,” says Kirch. Yet in terms of percentages, Kirch says, she has seen “some pretty huge percentage increases” in her 16 years in the field. Fewer figures were involved, however. “I remember back in the mid �80s when firms were fretting about whether to cross the $50,000 mark,” says Kirch.

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