Law firms have bumped up starting salaries for associates at top firms over the past few years, prompting Big Law clients to raise a stink about outsized salaries for junior lawyers. But it turns out that this pay—increased to $190,000 this year for lawyers fresh out of law school in big markets such as New York—falls short of past peaks when inflation is taken into account.

Adjusting for inflation with the U.S. Labor Department’s consumer price index calculator, even the recent hikes leave today’s first-year associates with a lower starting salary than their counterparts who entered the industry just before the global recession, according to an ALM analysis of pay data drawn from the National Association for Law Placement (NALP).

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